The Southern belles of the plant world, camellias come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. These broadleaf evergreen shrubs bear some of the most beautifully formal blooms. Plus, their leaves are used to make tea, said to be the world’s most popular drink.
Camellia blooms come in many shades of pink, red, and white. You also get to choose from six types of blooms: single, semidouble, anemone, peony, rose form double, and formal double. Each form features a certain petal arrangement and number of petals. Bloom time varies in camellia shrubs depending on the species. Some bloom in the spring, fall, or even winter in mild climates. Species with small flowers tend to be the fragrant ones because breeding efforts for large formal types have focused on size and not scent.
Camellia Care Must-Knows
Camellias are fairly easy to grow, requiring many of the same conditions as other broadleaf evergreens like rhododendrons and azaleas. In fact, they're often used as a companion plant to rhododendron and azalea. Site camellias in semi-shade or dappled shade to help them grow best. The soil should be acidic, well-drained, and rich in organic matter. Supplement poor soil with compost and peat moss. To help drain water away from their trunks, plant camellias so that the top of their root balls are almost even with the soil's surface. During their first year, camellias benefit from supplemental watering during dry spells. After that, they tend to be drought-tolerant. Shelter plants from strong winds, especially in the upper South or near the coast.
You'll want to watch for petal blight in spring. This fungus turns petals brown then kills them. The best solution is to remove affected flowers and debris from around the plant, then treat it with a foliar fungicide at least twice a month. Camellia scale (also known as tea scale) is the name for small white to gray insects that affix themselves to the undersides of leaves close to the stem. Though generally not fatal, the insects can weaken the plant. Handpicking the pests can alleviate the problem, but smothering scale and their eggs with horticultural oil may be more effective.
More Varieties of Camellia
This variety of Camellia japonica produces semidouble to peony-shape deep red flowers in midspring. It grows 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 7-8.
'Alexander Hunter' camellia
Camellia japonica is an upright shrub with sweeping branches bearing single or semidouble, deep red blooms in early and midspring. It grows 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 7-8.
'Helen's Ballerina' camellia
Camellia japonica has a vigorous, open habit and produces large double, pale peachy-pink blooms late in the season. It grows 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 7-8.
'Julia Drayton' camellia
This upright shrub of Camellia japonica bears double and semidouble crimson purple-tinged flowers in mid- and late spring. It grows 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 7-8.
'Miss Universe' camellia
Camellia japonica 'Miss Universe' is a prizewinner worthy of the name, producing large double white flowers on a shrub that grows 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 7-8.
'Lila Naff' camellia
This variety of Camellia japonica bears soft, silvery pink blooms in mid- to late spring on a shrub that is slow growing and upright. It grows 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Zones 7-8.
'Kramer's Supreme' camellia
Camellia japonica produces double, big, bountiful blooms of rose-red in late fall and again in late spring. It grows 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 7-8.
Anemone-shape rose-pink blooms make this variety of Camellia japonica stand out with summer color. It grows 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 7-8.
This variety of Camellia japonica is a slow-growing selection that bears deep red blooms, sometime double, in mid- to late spring. It grows 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 7-8.
Camellia sinensis, commonly called 'Tea Plant,' is the species of camellia that bring us tea. Small, white to pink single blooms are borne in fall. Zones 6-9.