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Growing Camellias in Our Region

Camellias. The sweet subject of today’s post. Last week, while walking through one of our greenhouses at Riverbend, I saw that some of our Camellias were ablaze with blooms. The large, light pink blooms on these particular shrubs had me thinking was I ready to purchase one for my own yard, as it is certain to brighten up any yard in the coolness of winter and on into early spring’s thaw. And what a beautiful cut flower it makes!!!

Some varieties of Camellia do well in our area, although they do need a little extra care because we are in the upper most northern zone of what they enjoy- they prefer milder weather. Most varieties blooming in the winter or early spring make this shrub a wonderful addition to your landscape when you are trying to achieve bloom and color year round! Colors of blooms include shades of pinks and reds, white, and coral. At Riverbend, we carry many different varieties, including ‘Yuletide’ (red blooms around Christmas!), ‘Pink Icicle’ (that is in bloom currently), and ‘Winter’s Snowman’ (a beautiful white variety). Below I will lay out some care tips to know before buying one of these gorgeous shrubs to add to your garden.

Most Camellias love morning sun with afternoon shade. Protection from afternoon sun is important for these bushes; they will not tolerate the harsh sun in the afternoon and it will turn their beautiful glossy green leaves brown (eek!). Many varieties can reach 10′-12′ tall, making this shrub even more delightful to see it full of blooms in the cooler months!

Their nice glossy leaves make for an excellent backdrop in the spring, summer, and fall months to have other shrubs, perennials, and annuals pop with color against them. By using an evergreen such as this as your backdrop, you can change up your design with every season! For example, your Camellia would be the focal point in winter to early spring, then have planted in front of it bright, cheerful yellow tulips that come up later in spring. After your tulips have bloomed, you can then enjoy your azaleas (that are (hypothetically) planted a little in front, on either side of your Camellia) come alive with blooms, and so on and so on. The possibilities are limitless when achieving a garden with year round interest and color. Little bit side tracked, now back to full focus on Camellias.

  • Camellias need some protection from wind. Planting them near a fence or against your house where they can have a barrier from gusts would be helpful.

  • In really cold weather (meaning lows in the 20s or below, and/or snow/ ice), you will want to place a blanket over your Camellia temporarily to protect it from the cold temps (you know, like you do with annuals in the fall or spring when we are having a chance of frost that night). There are frost blankets sold at large home improvement stores that are specially designed to let light in but protect your shrub if we were having, for example, icy harsh weather for a couple of days.

  • In really hot, dry temps (the dead of August here in middle TN, for instance!), be sure to water your Camellia a few times a week. Especially the first summer that it is planted in the ground (and this applies to really anything you plant), keep it watered regularly to ensure strong root growth. The first year is vital for a plant, as it is securing its roots in the ground and becoming stronger.

  • Try not to plant a Camellia too close to (meaning right underneath near the trunk) a tree as you do not want the tree’s roots, overtime, competing for space with the roots of your Camellia (more times than not, the tree will win, and we want our Camellia to be healthy and happy!).

Many varieties of Camellias grow great in our area, and with just a bit of extra care here and there, they are sure to thrive in your garden and bless you with their brilliance of color and showy blooms, year after year! I’d love to hear from you, have you seen Camellias before; are you familiar with this shrub? What has been your experience with having one in your garden?

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