The ‘Easy to Grow’ Camellia
In late fall and early winter there is not much in bloom in my garden. One of the gorgeous exceptions is my Camellia sasanqua ‘Apple Blossom’. Its white flowers blushed with pink and accented with a golden center are stunning against the dark green foliage. The sasanqua camellias are less well known than their showier cousins, the japonica camellias. While the flowers of the japonicas can be up to 5 inches wide, the sasanquas are a more modest 2-3 inches in diameter but often virtually cover the plant. Best of all, the sasanqua camellias are much less fussy than my japonicas. They are more sun tolerant and don’t seem to mind the higher salt content of the reclaimed water my water district provides for landscape irrigation. So if you are sprucing up your garden for the holidays, consider planting these beauties, especially ‘Yuletide’, which has bright red flowers just perfect for the season.
Camellia sasanqua facts
Height: 1 1/2 feet high and 6 feet wide to 12 feet tall and wide
Exposure: Most sasanquas tolerate more sun than the japonica varieties, some will even take full sun.
Soil: Well drained, rich in organic matter
Water: Regular water, but note that older plants (3+ years) can survive on little supplemental water, making them good candidates for our drought challenged gardens.
Choose a site that has good draining soil and sun exposure appropriate for the variety purchased. Dig a hole twice as wide as the container and as deep as the root ball. Amend removed soil with peat moss or azalea/camellia planting mix. Back fill hole with a bit of amended soil so that root ball is 1/2 inch above surrounding soil level. Never plant so that base of trunk is below the soil line. Fill in amended soil around root ball and water in. Camellias are also great container plants. Plant one gallon plants in pots 12-14″ wide, five gallon plants in pots 16-18″ wide. Use an acidic planting mix.
Water young camellias regularly. Well established plants, especially if their roots are shaded, can survive on little supplemental watering. Fertilize after bloom with a plant food for acid loving plants. Do not over fertilize, it can burn the plant. Prune plants right after flowering to shape plant if desired. Clean up fallen blossoms to prevent camellia petal blight.