Beauty in the Winter
Camellias are one of the plants that can provide you with bright color in the midst of the winter.
Camellias need conditions for growth similar to azaleas, an acid pH, excellent drainage and protection from hot afternoon sun. They grow as an understory plant in their native environment, and therefore, prefer an eastern or northern exposure. They must have some sunlight during the day to set flower buds. They like plenty of moisture, but suffer from root rot in heavy soils or poorly drained soils.
The two most popular types of camellias are Camellia japonica, commonly called japonica, and Camellia sasanqua. Both types do well in this climate.
Sasanquas typically bloom earlier than japonicas. Most varieties of sasanquas bloom from mid to late October through early January.
Japonica varieties typically begin bloom in early to mid January and continue until spring. Severe winter weather, especially cold winds, may cause some dieback, and can cause flower bud damage on those buds showing color. The bloom period on japonicas is often determined by our winter weather. In mild winters they can begin blooming in early January, and in cold winters it may be delayed until March.
Camellias are not heavy feeders. They can be fertilized once a year in the spring with an azalea/camellia food. If the pH gets too high around these plants, they will show signs of iron chlorosis, just like azaleas. This can be prevented by maintaining an acid pH, or corrected with iron chelate. Any pruning which is needed should be done in the spring, after all blooms are gone, and when new growth has begun. But pruning should be kept to a minimum if possible. Also like azaleas, they occasionally will suffer from leaf galls, the waxy-like deformed leaves in cool, wet springs. This is more of a nuisance than a life-threatening disease.
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