Thursday, March 22, 2012

Growing Camellias in your southern garden

Pink Camellia (photo credit: Dawn Gagnon)

One shrub you will find beloved by many a southerner is the lovely Camellia bush. Camellias are sturdy small shrubs that produce vivid blossoms appearing October-March. They have thick dark green glossy leaves and the flower heads are similar in size to a rose. Camellia blossoms can come in a myriad of colors from white, soft pinks, vivid reds and in Southern parts of China yellow.

Growing conditions:
Camellias can be grown in full sun, partial or even full shade. Dappled shade is perhaps ideal especially for white flowering forms. Camellia shrubs are known to thrive quite well underneath Pine and Oak trees due to the naturally acidic soil around these types of trees. Basically, a Camellia will grow well wherever a n Azalea will thrive. When planting a Camellia bush, dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and once the bush is centered in the middle of the hole be sure to fill in the hole with compost, and a good prepared soil mix.

Zone hardiness:
Camellias can grow in zones 7-9. Many new cultivators have developed varieties that can tolerate zones further north.

Camellias can be pruned almost any time of the year but ideally can be pruned lightly after it is done blooming.

Newly planted Camellias do well with regular watering that keeps the soil moist. Do not over water or keep the plant soggy. Normal annual rainfall is well tolerated, however, when there is extremely hot and dry weather a Camellia should be watered during those times to keep it healthy.

Pests and diseases:
Camellias are prone to tea scale. Tea scale are small insects that have cotton like masses underneath the leaves and the presence of yellow blotches on the top side of leaves. If left untreated the bush will not thrive. Use of a systemic insecticide is preferred. Camellias can become subjected to root rot as well if it is grown in soil that is too damp or is over watered.
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