(Species: Camellia - Family: Theaceae)
Camellia and its origins
The Camellia is an evergreen shrub grown for its showy flowers as well as deep green, glossy foliage.
In the wild, it grows in Eastern and Southern Asia, and was much celebrated for its beautiful blooms in Chinese and Japanese gardens for hundreds of years before Camellias reached Europe in the early 18th century.
Seasonality: Camellia in flower
The Camellia’s great benefit is that is offers flowers early in the year, from late winter to early spring, when little else is in bloom. It is a spectacular and showy flower. A Camellia can be so smothered in flowers that the foliage almost disappears.
Blooms can measure up to 12cms, and range from a simple single anemone shape, such as pale pink C williamsii JC Williams, to a full peony such as deep pink Anticipation. Flowers can be streaked with a deeper colour, such as raspberry-rippled C japonica Lavinia Maggi, or even picotee-edged, such as cerise-edged white C japonica Margaret Davis.
Colours are usually shades of white, pink and lipstick red, though there are cream and yellow camellias too. Garden varieties can reach over 3m and more, but the average size of a Camellia is less than 2m.
How to plant Camellia
The Camellia is not particularly hard to grow and is perfect for the novice gardener. It needs little or no pruning, and will dependably flower in early spring. However it does need to be planted in lime-free soil, i.e. neutral to acid, not alkaline, and in a sheltered position; against a house wall is an ideal spot.
Frost and a speedy thawing can damage flower buds, so avoid planting where the camellia could be exposed to icy winds and early morning sun. As they are woodland plants, camellias prefer semi-shade. Camellias also grow well very well in containers.
Not all types are fully hardy, so choose your Camellia cultivar with care.
Propagation of Camellia
Take semi-ripe Camellia cuttings from midsummer to early winter, or leaf bud cuttings from midsummer to winter.
Did you know?
The most famous camellia is not a garden-worthy variety with those familiar knockout flowers. It is a more modest species: the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.
The simple, perfect white camellia is a symbol of the Chanel fashion house.