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February Plant of the Month | Camellia

February Plant of the Month - Camellia

The camellia is one of the most popular winter and spring flowering shrubs, with its extraordinarily beautiful blooms offering a vivid splash of colour when little else is in flower, and its bold, evergreen foliage providing form and structure even once the flowers have faded.

These easy to grow shrubs are perfect for adding colour to borders and containers.


Top Varieties

C.japonica

Also known as Japanese Camellia, this flowering shrub could grow to around six meters after a number of years, if allowed to do so, but if you don’t want it to reach this height you can easily keep it in check by pruning it after it flowers. C. japonica produces large flowers from late winter to spring, in red, pink and white, ranging from solid colours to stripes, and from single cups of petals to tight double blooms. Glossy, deep green leaves provide the perfect backdrop for the flowers’ brilliant symmetry. Varieties such as ‘Blood of China’ (red), ‘Scentsation’ (pink), ‘Nuccio’s Gem’ (white) and ‘Lady Vansittart’ (pink/white bicolour) are consistently strong performers.

Camellia 'Blood of China'

C.japonica, ‘Blood of China’

C.sasanqua

This variety is generally less well known than the C. japonica. Flowering from autumn to early winter, with darker leaves and smaller blossoms than the C. japonica, Sasanqua camellias are hardier, more drought-tolerant and disease-resistant, and many varieties can tolerate full sun.* You’ll even find that they may flower more if in full sun.

* Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ carries masses of festive red, single flowers and blooms in time for Christmas


Camellia Factfile

Type: Evergreen shrub. 

Flowering / fruiting time: Autumn to late Spring, or November to March depending upon the variety.

Sun Requirements: Camellias benefit from a sheltered, partially shady position, although with careful watering they can be grown in sunny positions.

Soil: Loam, clay sandy, acidic. They like soil with a loose, open structure, so add plenty of compost before planting to allow the right balance between water retention and free drainage.

Hardiness: Hardy, in the shelter of neighbouring trees, shrubs or buildings.

Eventual size (height x width): 2-6m depending on variety, and can be accommodated in smaller gardens with pruning, or as a pot grown plant.


Plant Care

Planting

Feeding and watering

Unusual for the plant world, the camellia flower head falls as one, and can create a beautiful colourful carpet beneath the shrub. If there are any flowers caught by a frost, these can be dead-headed if you want to.

Next year’s flower buds will form on the initial spring growth, and although there may be a second burst of growth in midsummer, this will not produce any buds, and can be gently trimmed in early autumn to retain the shape of the plant without affecting the flowering.


Complementary Planting Ideas

Camellia in a border

Rhododendrons and azaleas make ideal companion plants for camellias as the spectacular colours of the three species provide non-stop visual appeal. They are also all ericaceous, so will thrive in the same type of soil.

Taller acers will complement the form and colour of camellias, whilst low growing woodland, spring bulbs, such as cyclamen and snowdrops, provide a delicate backdrop of groundcover.


Camellia Fact

Camellia bushes can live up to 100 to 200 years, although the oldest living camellia, planted in 1347, is over 650 years old and can be found in China’s Panlong Monastery.

A relation of the camellia garden plant, is camellia sinensis. Which is, of course, our nations favourite- tea!

Tea plantation