Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Queen of Southern Winter Gardens


Camellia japonica

Camellia japonica 'Walter Bellingrath'

There are several species of Camellia. The majority of collections are Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua. The C. sasanqua bloom earlier than the C. japonica types, sometimes as early as September, but most often late October through December. The C. japonica flower as early as December and sometimes into March. Most camellias seen in gardens and parks are Camellia japonica.

My absolute favorite Camellia is Camellia japonica 'Lady Vansittart'.  The flowers range from white to rosy pink,  solid colors, striped or speckled, each blossom is a surprise :-)

White with pink stripes

rosy pink 

Camellias are relatively easy to grow if some basic rules are followed. They like partial shade, especially in the afternoon. Don't plant it on the south or west side of the house and do not plant too deeply. Add some cottonseed meal or compost, do not mulch too closely to the trunk, and water it periodically through the first year after planting. Fertilize your camellias in February and June with a slow release fertilizer formulated for camellias. Camellias prefer acid soil with the ideal pH ranging between 5.5 and 6.5. Camellia roots need to breathe, soggy wet soil will kill your camellia.

Pink with stripes

Since camellias are slow-growing, they are ideal for container plantings. They want to be re-potted every three years or when outgrowing the pot. As soon as the plant reaches the size you want, re-pot it in the same size container and trim the roots. Potted camellias need a little extra attention: make sure of good drainage by adding gravel to the bottom of the pot. Use high quality potting mix formulated for camellias and don't forget to fertilize. The advantage of a potted camellia is that it may be moved to any location to better enjoy the flowers as long as it is outdoors and has shade.

and my most favorite of her colors, the rarely occurring speckled flower

Camellias are wonderful plants, there rich glossy leaves are very attractive, and when in bloom the sight is really stunning. Plant them as foundation plantings, screens, accent plants, as background or as a hedge. Don't forget to enjoy the flowers, float them in a bowl with water or as a single bloom with leaves in a vase.

It's raining flowers

Btw, our local Harry P. Leu Gardens (Orlando, Central Florida) has the largest Camellia collection in the United States outside of California :-)

Learn more via the American Camellia Society's website

Truly a Queen of Southern Winter Gardens!


  1. The carpet of petals around the base of a camellia shrub is my favorite part. C. sasanqua makes a prettier carpet because they fall off individually but I'll take C. japonica.

  2. I must take your word since I only have japonicas. I guess I'll have to buy a sasanqua sooner or later ;-)

  3. danke :) Leider bluehen die Camellien nur einmal im Jahr, aber die verschiedenen Sorten dann doch zu verschiedenen Zeiten. Man kann also Camellienblueten vom Oktober bis durch den Maerz im Garten haben :)