With glossy evergreen leaves and showy flowers in shades from pale pink to brilliant red, camellias can be showstoppers in the garden. If you're lucky enough to live in zones 7 to 9, camellias can add color and interest to your garden all year long. Even in colder zones, you can probably cultivate some of the new cold climate hybrids.
The most well-known camellia is probably the tea plant (Camellia sinesis), but with so many species to choose from -- up to 280 -- there's probably a variety to fit that perfect spot in your flowerbed [source: Parks].
Height: Camellias average about 10 feet in height (3.05 meters), but there are some types that can grow as high as 25 feet (7.62 meters).
Soil: Provide them with rich, acidic soil (pH 6.0 to 6.5), and mulch them well in winter.
Water: Keep camellias uniformly moist. They don't tolerate drought conditions, so keep the watering can handy.
Planting: Camellias prefer partial shade. If you plant them in too much sun, the leaves will start to burn, and if you don't offer them enough light, you won't get as many luscious flowers. Start new plants in spring after the last frost.
Tips and Tricks:
- Camellias are slow growers, so make sure that you're in it for the long haul.
- If you want to give some cold weather varieties a try, Ashton's Pride, Frost Prince, Snow Flurry, Elaine Lee or Ashton's Snow should get you started. Depending on the specific variety, they can be hardy to zone 5.
- Make sure that you give your camellia a good start in life by keeping it safe from damaging winds. If you're concerned about the weather in your area being marginal, try positioning your plant in a sheltered spot that's out of the wind and warms up in the afternoon.
In the next section, we'll explore the dramatic Japanese maple.