All you need to know about growing camellias

Camellias, with their extended flowering season from early autumn through to late spring, are the queens of the winter shade garden. Here are guidelines for growing these beauties

“Their cultivation in local gardens is relatively easy, provided a few simple rules are followed”, says Vergelegen horticulturist Richard Arm.

Richard Arm admires the rare South African camellia 'Laurian Brown'

Vergelegen horticulturist Richard Arm admires the rare South African camellia ‘Laurian Brown’ (Camellia reticulata, RSA)

Japonicas from Japan are strong growers that need to be planted in dappled shade. Pink ‘Tiffany’ is one of the most popular mid-season flowering camellias with large, loose peony-like flowers and good foliage.

Camellia japonica

Camellia japonica

Sasanquas, originating in China, have smaller leaves and are more sun-tolerant than other varieties. ‘Jennifer Susan’ is a delightful free-flowering pink camellia with dainty blooms. Reticulatas from China are slow growers, but have large flowers and leaves. ‘Francie L.’ and ‘Dr Clifford Parks’ are good choices.

Growing tips:

  • Plant the camellias in well-drained soil which is rich in humus, and protect their root zones in the heat of summer with a thick layer of mulch in the form of leaf mould, pine needles or pine bark. READ ALL ABOUT MULCH HERE
  • Water them regularly during the flowering season to dramatically reduce the incidence of bud drop.
  • “Camellias let you know their condition,” says Richard. If the leaves are green and glossy there is no need for additional supplements, but if they are yellowing, he suggests using a slow-release fertiliser.
  • Dappled shade from mature trees is ideal for most, though some are more sun-tolerant than others. Too much shade reduces bud formation, while excessive heat and sunshine scorch fine surface roots and flower buds.

Visit the International Camellia Society website HERE