Camellias: A Guide.

camellias

Camellia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. They are found in eastern and southern Asia, from the Himalayas east to Japan and Indonesia. There are 100–300 described species, with some controversy over the exact number. There are also around 3,000 hybrids.

Choosing camellias

Camellias are evergreen shrubs that come in a range of sizes. There are two groups which flower at different times so, when choosing one, consider when you'd like the flowers to appear:

  1. Camellia sasanqua cultivars flower in autumn and winter
  2. Camellia japonica and Camellia × williamsii cultivars flower in late winter and early spring

There are also several different flower forms (single, semi-double, anemone, peony, rose and formal double) so choose your favourite form.  All camellias have really flamboyant flowers. 

Where to plant

Most cultivars prefer partial or dappled shade, but Camellia sasanqua will tolerate sunnier positions

You can also grow camellias in containers

Plant camellias in a sheltered position, away from cold winds and early morning sun

How to plant

Allow a space of at least 3-5m (10-15ft) per plant. When fully grown they will be medium to large plants

Camellias are generally hardy (RHS hardiness rating H5), but Camellia sasanqua is slightly more tender (H4) and may need winter protection in particularly cold winters or in freezing winds

Prepare the area by first removing any weeds if necessary and digging over the area for planting

Watering

Water your camellias regularly when they are newly planted (the first 18 months) and water through the summer months as this is when the flowers are produced. Aim to keep the soil moist and check it with trowel about 10cm (4in) down – if it feels dry at this level, water well.

Feeding

Feed your camellias in early spring with an ericaceous fertiliser, such as Miracle-Gro Azalea, Camellia and Rhododendron Soluble Plant Food or Chempak Ericaceous Food. Follow the dilution rates on the packet. Excessive and late-summer feeding can also lead to bud drop – do not feed camellias later than the end of July. 

Deadheading

Deadhead your camellias when the flowers begin to fade.  This keeps the plant looking fresh as spent flowers will turn brown and can look unsightly. However, it doesn't significantly improve the flowering for the next spring, so it's something you can do if you have time.

Pruning and training

Camellias do not need to be pruned regularly but, if they outgrow the allotted space, you can trim them into shape after flowering. Hard pruning is best carried out in March, but it will be a couple of years or more before they flower well again.

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