What loves shade, blooms in the winter, and is evergreen?

And the answer is….camellias!  These wonderful, versatile plants have been thrilling homeowners for years.  Right now, Camellia japonicas are blooming.  The japonicas have larger leaves that Camellia sasanqua, and in general have larger, more dramatic blooms.  They look kind of like winter roses but even better since they are evergreen.

If you are considering a possible location for camellias, look for a shady place with well drained soil.  Be sure to check the label of the camellia and place accordingly.  The japonicas can get over 20 foot tall, depending on variety even though they may only be 2 ft. plants when you purchase them.  The sasanquas tend to be smaller in stature, and some can even be used as foundation shrubs such as the Shi Shi Gashira variety, which will only get to be 4 ft. by 4 ft. When you plant a camellia, resist the urge to fertilize it. And if you simply cannot, then only fertilize it with a slow release nitrogen fertilizer such as cottonseed mill. After the first growing season, fertilize with azalea food at the recommended rate. If you need to add organic material to your planting area, use organic compost or composted pine mulch to loosen the soil.  Peat moss is not recommended for camellia planting.

If your landscape already benefiting from this beautiful plant?   Here are some tips on how to treat it.  If you need to move it, transplant it after it blooms in the spring.  Also, if it needs pruning, only prune it in the spring after the blooming has ended and prune off only 1/3 of the growth.  More severe pruning isn’t suggested but can be done if necessary since it will usually bud out from the old growth wood.  The most common pest with camellias is tea scale, but it is susceptible to other scales also.  Treat affected plants with a systemic insecticide such as Bayer or Ferti-Lome Tree and Shrub, both of which are 12 month insect control that you water in during March or April at the beginning of the growing season.

Feeling empowered with information?!  You are ready to pick out an amazing camellia and enjoy!