Camellia: A Bright Delight in Early Spring

Camellia are a partial shade loving perennial that announce the coming of spring with vibrant, rose-like flowers grown on a shrub that reaches 6-18” tall, depending on the variety. Even in the first spring after planting, your Camellia will reward you generously with big blooms to enjoy in the colder, early spring months before the other plants have woken up from their dormancy. She will make a great privacy shield or stunning hedge as she grows at a moderate pace of 10-12” per year until she reaches full maturity.

When You Can’t Wait for the Roses

Camellia thrive best in garden zones 6 -10 and can bloom in the spring, fall, or very late winter months depending on the variety. Known for rose- or peony-looking blooms in shades of pink, red, and white, Camellia are loners in the garden who prefer to have plenty of space on either side so they don’t have to compete with other plants for water resources. So give her space to grow and she will reward you with large, evergreen foliage and delightful flowers to kick off the growing season each year. 

Planting and Care

Plant Camellia in spring or fall as she prefers cooler temperatures when first establishing.  Choose a location that gives dappled shade as she doesn’t love direct sunlight. Dig a hole twice as wide as the pot and just as deep, loosen the roots gently if they are bound tight, and place the root ball into the hole ensuring that it is peaking about 2” above the soil. Pack the dirt around the plant to ensure she is upright and that the root ball is slightly exposed. Water thoroughly. Camellia appreciate a good mulch over their root ball to protect the roots as they get established in their new home.

Camellia prefer moist soil down to about 14” in depth, so give her a deep, twice-a-week watering to keep her happy and blooming. If you notice smaller blooms or wilting, she is likely thirsty. Your plant will also benefit from a nitrogen-rich fertilizer once or twice in spring and again in the fall. Look for a Camellia or Azalea specific fertilizer that is a slow-release variety at your local garden center. 

As a shrub, Camellia cannot be divided like other perennials, but  if you want to try, she can be propagated by taking cuttings of her stems. Keep in mind that she will get quite large when full grown, so make sure you have adequate space for multiple Camellia in your garden before propagating new plants. 

Three favorites for us this season are: Early Wonder, October Magic Ruby, and October Magic Orchid.