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The Complete Guide To Growing Camellias

Camellias brighten up the drab months from late fall through early spring by offering up their flowers when all else is dormant. Their deep green, glossy evergreen foliage makes a wonderful backdrop for their large rose-like blooms. What a treat to have the landscape in bloom at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and even Valentine's Day!

Top Camellia Varieties

• Debutante camellia features cotton candy pink blooms that begin to open just after New Year's. This Camellia japonica variety grows fifteen feet tall and eight feet wide.
• Kramer's Supreme camellia offers vividly red blooms from January through April. A moderately sized Camellia japonica, it grows six to eight feet tall and wide.
• April Snow camellia blooms white beginning in spring. This is an especially cold hardy Camellia japonica that thrives in zone 6, and grows six to eight feet tall and wide.
• Shi Shi Gashira camellia puts on a fantastic show of deep pink flowers from fall through mid winter. This compact Camellia sasanqua variety grows three to four feet tall and four to six feet wide.
• Yuletide camellia shows off red and gold blooms from fall through early winter. This full size Camellia sasanqua reaches eight to ten feet tall and six to eight feet wide.
• Cold Hardy Tea camellia features white blooms in winter. Planted in the ground it attains up to fifteen feet tall and wide and is hardy in zones 7-9. It may also be kept as a container plant that may be grown anywhere in the U.S.

Choosing Camellias For Your Landscape

Important factors in choosing camellias include size, bloom time, bloom color, sun exposure, and cold hardiness. The hardiest camellia is April Snow (to zone 6), while the rest are hardy in zones 7-9. Camellia japonica selections grow larger on average, and bloom winter-spring. Camellia sasanqua varieties bloom fall-winter and tend to stay a bit smaller. Where sun exposure is concerned, sasanquas tend to be more tolerant of direct sunlight than japonicas, with Yuletide being the most sun tolerant of the lot. Planting several varieties is a great way to enjoy beautiful blooms throughout the cooler months.

How To Plant Camellias

The ideal location for a camellia is a filtered light or morning sun/ afternoon shade situation. Winter bloomers are subject to cold damage or bud drop if sudden deep cold arrives as they begin to show color; so be sure to plant them out of the path of prevailing winds. Being acid lovers, camellias benefit from added organic matter in the form of soil amendments at planting time, and a well maintained layer of mulch. Dig the planting hole twice the width of the pot and a half inch shallower than the root ball. Gently tease out the roots and place the plant in the hole. Backfill with an equal mixture of native soil and organic planting mix. Firm the soil and water well. Do not fertilize immediately. After six to eight weeks, feed with a granular fertilizer for acid loving plants.

Pruning Camellias

Camellias may be pruned, if desired, in spring after flowering is finished. Branches may be tip-pruned individually for a more natural look, or the whole plant may be lightly sheared for a tightly groomed appearance. Remove damaged branches at any time.

Tips For Great Camellia Blooms

Good maintenance practices lead to healthy growth. Healthy growth leads to great camellia blooms:
• Keep camellias well mulched.
• Once they are established, camellias need to dry out a bit in the summer. Even in dry weather, check to be sure that the top 4-6 inches of soil are dry before watering.
• Mature camellias prefer to have their space to themselves. Avoid planting other plants within 5-6 feet of the trunk.
• Prune and fertilize each year when the new growth begins to emerge in spring.

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