How to Succeed with Camellias

by Hilary Hart

As we do every fall, G*H stocked up on Camellias.  Some were already in bloom, so I got out my camera. As I was focusing my lens on exquisite bloom after exquisite bloom, I realized that I have started to take this wonderful shrub for granted.  Camellias are in such abundance here in the South that we can become inured to their beauty.  We forget how very fortunate we are to so easily grow such a magnificent shrub that is available in a remarkable range of shapes and sizes, as well as bloom colors and forms.

Camellias have much to recommend them to the Atlanta gardener:  They do very well in our heat and humidity, don’t generally require watering after the first year, are evergreen, and break out in gorgeous blooms when most plants are done for the year.  Camellias can be espaliered against a fence or pruned into tree from.  Depending on the variety, camellias can form densely compact shrubs or provide tall screening.  They are ideal for establishing an evergreen backdrop for deciduous and herbaceous plantings.

How to Succeed with Camellias (without trying too terribly hard)

Here are some basic planting and care instructions for Camellias.  Follow these and you should have a beautiful shrub that will cause you few headaches:

  • Site in partial shade or filtered sun — the key is protection from direct afternoon sun.
  • Provide fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Camellias are somewhat shallow-rooted, so good drainage is essential.
  • Mulch for protection in winter and moisture retention in summer.
  • Fertilize when new growth appears, usually in April.
  • Avoid consistently soggy soil as it is a slow killer.

Planting Time

You can plant camellias any time of the year as long as they are properly planted and tended. However, if you plant during the dormant months (fall to early spring), the attention required is considerably less. Soil moisture is usually adequate during the winter and the root system readily grows. When spring arrives, the plant has a well-established root system able to support new growth.

Cold Protection

While established camellias survive our winter temperatures with a good layer (3 inches) of mulch, buds can incur freeze damage.  In the event of an unfortunately-timed freeze, use a cloth covering, tented to avoid contact between buds and fabric.  According to UGA’s Extension Service, the single- and semi-double petal varieties are less susceptible to cold injury than the double-petal varieties.

Solid Performers

Here’s a brief list of Camellias that G*H has carried.  I’ve Included a brief description and the plant’s vital statistics.

C. sasanqua 'William L. Hunt'Camellia sasanqua ‘William L. Hunt’

Height: 5 feet
Spread: 5 feet
Light: Part sun to part shade.
Peony-like red flowers emerge in late fall and continue blooming through winter. A true heritage showstopper! Can be used as a specimen or hedge. Looks great with gardenias and azaleas!

 

Camellia sasanqua ‘Rainbow’
Height: 6-8 feet
Spread: 4 feet
Light: Part sun to shade
Masses of single white blooms edged with rose. Large bright yellow stamens hang on after petals drop.

 

Camellia sasanqua ‘Asakura’Camellia sasanqua ‘Asakura’

Height: 10-12 feet
Spread: 6-8 feet
A Christmas camellia, semi-double white flowers with yellow stamen cover the plant from fall into winter.

Egao  x ‘Corkscrew’
Height: 6 feet
Spread: 6 feet
Light: Morning sun/afternoon shade
The plant has a distinctive zigzag growth habit that is dense and spreading. A profuse bloomer starting in fall.  Flowers are pink and form a loose peony shape.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Leslie Ann’Camellia sasanqua ‘Leslie Ann’
Height: 5 feet
Spread: 5 feet
Light: Part shade
A sweet selection of sasanqua Camellia, ‘Leslie Ann’ blooms in late fall or early winter. 2-inch semi-double white flowers edged in pink come in profusion! Dense, compact bushy habit.

 

Camellia sasanqua ‘Rainbow’
Height: 6-8 feet
Spread: 4 feet
Light: Part sun to shade
Masses of single white blooms edged with rose. Large bright yellow stamens hang on after petals drop.

 

Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine-No-Yuki’
Height: 4-6 feet
Spread: 4-6 feet
Light: Morning sun/afternoon shade
Semi-double, white flowers cover the plant from mid-fall to winter. Great as foundation planting, hedge or espalier. G*H Nursery Manager Butch Teal has a gorgeous set of espaliered ‘Mine-No-Yuki’ that are putting on a great show as of this posting.

 

Camellia sasanqua ‘Autumn Sentinel’
Height: 12-15 feet
Spread: 6-8 feet
Light: Part sun to shade
Columnar growth habit with smaller leaves.  Semi-double blooms of pale pink begin in early fall.  “Autumn Sentinel’ happily grows in container and is great as an evergreen screening plant or back-of-the-bed foundation.

 

Camellia x ‘Winter Star’Camellia x ‘Winter Star’
Height: 7 feet
Spread: 5 feet
Light: Morning sun/afternoon shade
A hybrid of C. oleifera and C. sasanqua, ‘Winter Star’ has excellent cold tolerance.  Flowers are a single-petalled pinkish purple that appear October through November.

 

 

 

 

Camellia sasanqua 'Alabama Beauty'

Camellia sasanqua ‘Alabama Beauty’

Camellia sasanqua ‘Alabama Beauty’

Height: 10 feet
Spread: 5 feet
Light: Part sun to part shade.
Semi-double, pink-magenta flowers emerge in early fall and continue blooming through early winter. Can be used as a specimen, hedge or espaliered against a wall.

 

 

 

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