Robust yet attractive, early-flowering, evergreen shrubs that are much easier to grow than you think. All thrive in sheltered and semi-shaded positions and in practically any soil type, so long as it is lime free.
Family: Theaceae (Tea family)
Botanical Name: Camellia
Foliage: evergreen, glossy dark green.
Flowers: Blowsy blooms in shades of red, pink, creamy yellow and white. Available in single, semi-double and double-flowered forms.
Flowering Period: March to April.
Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Neutral or acid (lime free).
Conditions: Full sun. Best planted in an east facing aspect, exposed or sheltered.
Hardiness: Most modern camellias are fairly hardy in the UK, but the flowers are not and can easily succumb to frost damage.
Similar to rhododendrons camellias dislike lime but will tolerate soils that have neutral ph. Best planted in dappled or intermittent shade. They will also grow in full sun but less vigorously and with some yellowing of the leaves. Once established they cab be quite tolerant of dry conditions.
They are usually planted as specimen plants or in groups due to their early flowering nature. Although the glossy green foliage can provide a good backdrop for later flowering plants. To protect the delicate flowers, plant in a sheltered location and away from the morning sun.
Camellia are ideal for cultivation in pots, tubs and containers, especially in areas of the UK where the soil is chalky and therefore not suitable.
Disturb the roots as little as possible when planting. They dislike being moved, which can cause bud drop.
Water thoroughly during dry weather until well established. Mulch with organic matter in spring by applying a moderate top dressings of ericaceous compost or leaf mould. Feed in early spring and then every few weeks with a general purpose fertilizer designed for ericaceous plants.
Insulate pot and container grown specimens in winter with straw or bubble-wrap, as the roots are susceptible to frost damage.
Dead head faded or frost damage blooms regularly as they will quickly become brown and soggy and look very unsightly.
Prune back unwanted shoots after flowering. They can be pruned back hard in May if overgrown and straggly, however this will affect the following year's flower display.
Vine weevil and scale insects can be a problem.
Propagate from seed or strike half-ripe cuttings in late summer in a warm frame.
Once considered too tender for many UK gardens, the new cultivars are much tougher and more colourful than their parent forms. Hundreds of different modern Camellia hybrids are now available, all of which produce glossy green foliage and large blooms in a wide range of colours.
C. japonica (Japan, Korea) the common camellia forms
a large vigorous shrub or small tree up to 16ft (5m).
Oval glossy green leaves that taper to short point.
Spectacular flowers to 4in across (6-10cm). Good cultivars
C. japonica 'Adolphe Audusson' with large semi-double, blood-red flowers.
C. japonica 'Apollo' with semidouble, rose-red flowers with white blotches.
C. japonica 'Elegans' has a spreading habit, with deep peach-pink anemone-form flowers.
C. japonica 'Gloire de Nantes' is an erect shrub with deep rose-pink, semi-double flowers.
C. japonica 'Preston Rose' has salmon-pink peony-form flowers.
C. japonica 'Snowflake' has single, white flowers.
C. x 'Inspiration' (hybrid between C. reticulata and C. saluenensis) is an upright shrub with dark green ovate and pointed leaves. Deep pink semi-double flowers. Makes a good wall shrub. Height to 10ft (3m).
C. x. 'Salutation' produces beautiful white flowers
that have a soft hint of pink.
C. reticulata, large-flowered species, very tender so can only grow outside in mild districts or trained against a sunny wall.
C. x williamsii hybrids (cross between C. japonica
and C. saluensis) are a good free-flowering form. Average
height 5 to 10ft (1.5-3m) Ovate, tapering, glossy leaves
and large flowers up to 4in across (6-10cm). Popular
C. Williams, is the first named variety of this hybrid group, with single pink flowers.
C. x williamsii 'Alba Plena', double white flowers.
C. x williamsii 'Anticipation' rose-pink peony-form flowers.
C. x williamsii 'Debbie' has clear pink, semi-double flowers.
C. x williamsii 'Donation', pink, large, semi-double flowers, very free flowering (one of the most popular of all camellias).
C. x williamsii 'Jupiter', bright red flowers.