Add Color to Semi Shade with Camellias
If you want flowers in winter that don’t need to be planted every year, plant camellias. Depending on the variety, they can bloom from October to April. The perennial shrubs or small trees are evergreen and long lived in the garden. They prefer semi-shade but the sasanqua varieties will tolerate more sun.
Types of Camellias
- Sasanquas – The sasanquas are often overlooked in favor of the more showy camellia japonica with its much larger flowers. But the sasanquas are great, reliable garden perennials providing color in the fall and winter months. Though their flowers are smaller than the japonicas, they are prolific bloomers. There are varieties with single, semi-double and double petal arrangements. They are an attractive shrub when not in bloom with dark green glossy leaves that provide an attractive background for other garden plants. They are virtually pest free and although they prefer regular irrigation, they are somewhat drought tolerant when established.
- Japonicas – The japonicas are the camellias that produce the super showy blooms up to 5 inches across. They are not full sun tolerant and should be planted in semi shade. The leaves are a glossy green and larger than the leaves of the sasanquas. They are slow growers, but can eventually reach a height of 20 feet. There are over 3,000 varieties, cultivars and hybrids so there are plenty of choices of flower color, shape and size!
How to Plant
- Plant when the plants are in bloom. The roots and branches are resting while in bloom making it a good time to plant.
- Choose an area in semi-shade, or if in a sunnier exposure, plant a sasanqua variety. Soil should drain well.
- Dig a planting hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.
- Amend the removed soil with an acid soil amendment like moistened peat moss or a mix labeled ‘azalea/camellia mix’.
- Backfill the planting hole with a little of the amended soil so that the root ball sits about 2 inches higher than the surrounding soil.
- Place the plant in the hole and backfill with the amended soil, pressing the soil firmly with your hands.
- Form a watering basin and water well. Keep moist but not soggy for the first few weeks. Then lengthen periods between watering as the plant is established.
- Irrigate regularly.
- Prune in spring after blooming. They do not need a lot of pruning but may be pruned to shape.
- Fertilize as soon as they finish blooming, then again 4-6 weeks later, and finally, a third time 6 weeks after the second feeding. Use a fertilizer labeled ‘azalea/camellia’ or one for acid loving plants. Follow package instructions, do not over fertilize, it can burn the leaves.
- Keep camellias mulched, they have shallow roots and the mulch will keep them cool and happy.
- Pick up fallen blossoms frequently to prevent petal blight, a fungal disease that causes brown, discolored blooms.