Camellias are species native to Japan, Indochina and South East Asia. These fine ornamental shrubs are heath plants that have the advantage of flowering for half the year in their environment, regardless of their location, whether outside or on balconies. Planting camellias in a garden’s corner can be useful to adorn the undergrowth, all the while providing the plants with a shaded area. Dwarf varieties are intended for container planting and patios.

There are nearly 300 species of camellia in the world. The Japanese Camellia, known by the scientific name Camellia Japonica, is the most popular kind among connoisseurs. Cultivars are characterized by the presence of yellow stamens gently sprouting in the middle of rose petals. If the hardiest adult plants can reach 13 feet (4 meters) in height when planted in-ground, camellias grown in containers are much smaller.

Knowing camellias

Originally from Asia, camellias belong to the Theaceae family. The name comes from the Austrian botanist Georg Joseph Kamel who proceeded to describe it for the first time in 1737. Its bushy yellow, pink or red flowers look like those of rose bushes, peonies and anemones. Resembling those of the tea plant, the bright green leaves are evergreen, arranged alternately and of oval shape. Camellias love warm and temperate climate and grow on light and well-drained soil on a parcel of land that is exposed to the sun or in mid-shade. Flowering, which usually occurs early and is durable, lasts from November to May, depending on species. Camellias are slow-growing, and therefore do not require pruning. They are planted in clumps and create beautiful colour spots in the garden. Whether planted by itself or in the middle of a flowering hedge, the Camellia’s colour breaks the monotony of a uniform planting. Camellias can be planted in pots or containers to adorn patios and brighten up balconies. When trained against a wall, camellias grow vertically in column.

Planting camellias

Planting camellias is traditionally carried out in the fall to get a good flowering and better rooting. The ideal time period is between November and March. However, planting species that have flowered in fall or winter is possible until spring. The soil is made up of 1 / 3 of garden earth, 1 / 3 of heath earth and 1 / 3 of potting soil. Planting is done in a hole measuring 40 inches (1 meter) wide and 20 inches (50 cm) deep. The plantation is followed by abundant watering and mulching to protect the young plants’ roots. Planting camellias in containers is done using pots of which the bottom is lined with clay beads. In this case, the earth will consist of 1 / 3 of potting soil and 2 / 3 of heath earth. Planting will be followed by watering, which must be regularly performed in periods of hot weather, taking special care not to provide the plants with excessive irrigation. Plants of which the leaves are yellowed need to be repotted with earth made up of brown peat and heath earth. This is a sign of chlorosis, resulting from the roots being in contact with calcareous soil, and which can be remedied by transplanting the seedlings grown in-ground into an acid substrate.

Maintaining camellias

Maintenance of camellias is essential to prevent disease and stimulate flowering. Pruning at the end of flowering reduces the branches’ size and rejuvenates the tree by ridding it of its wilted flowers. The use of maritime pine bark has the advantage of acidifying the soil to favour growth. In terms of amendment, it is advisable not to resort to manure, but instead to use a bit of fertilizer after flowering to stimulate bud formation. Excessive water supplies can cause the roots to rot. Thus, watering should be carried out with moderation, all the while trying to keep a constant humidity level. Winter maintenance consists of removing snow from the leaves’ surface. Camellias growing in-ground will be mulched at their base to protect them from the cold and frost. If the climate becomes unbearable for camellias, it is recommended to proceed to the wrapping of each seedling by using a protective cover. The camellias’ enemy is the cochineal, which is concealed under a white felting. Biological treatment consists of using Cryptolaemus, which is known to be their natural predator. Treatment by spraying a solution containing rubbing alcohol, vinegar and beer is also effective. Pestalozzia guepini is a devastating fungus that completely defoliates the plant. Its treatment involves the application of a synthetic fungicide. By following these tips, you can plant camellias to adorn your garden with beautiful flowering shrubs.

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Published in Flower guide by Alexander on 06 Jul 2011