can be among the most rewarding,
flowering evergreens for this area.
(Did you see the ‘can be’?)
The two major categories of camellias in this area are Camellia Japonica and Camellia Sasanqua. The japonicas are usually larger
growing, have larger leaves and generally have the showiest variety in blossoms. The sasanquas as a group, have smaller leaves,
bloom earlier and have smaller blossoms but are generally considered hardier plants. Some people remember them by thinking of
sasanquas as fall blooming camellias and japonicas as winter/spring blooming ones but that is not always true. A ‘Yuletide’ sasanqua
may still have blossoms at the first of March and a ‘Winter Star’ can be in bloom in October. Why can’t our plants follow the rules?!
Both groups of camellias have the same basic needs; a good soil, rich in organic matter, slightly acidic and most definitely, being well
drained is absolutely essential. Light exposure can vary somewhat if the soil is right. Part shade is recommended but they can grow
in full sun if other conditions are good. A poorly drained soil is one that can get tacky and gooey when it gets wet. If you can
squeeze it into a ball that can be used as an artillery round, you should probably either not plant a camellia in it or you should
amend it to get it into the proper condition. This is where materials such as mushroom compost, permatil, humus, vermiculite and
soil conditioners all can be beneficial. Also, a spot which is somewhat protected from constant exposure to harsh northeasterly
winter wind is preferred.
Maintenance for both groups is about the same as well. Fertilize in the spring with a fertilizer formulated for acid loving plants.
These are surprisingly often marked as ‘Azalea-Camellia Food’. Do not fertilize the japonicas after mid-summer since this can produce
a flash of new growth which is more susceptible to early cold damage in the fall. Do the most serious pruning in the early spring and
lighter corrective pruning whenever it’s needed. New flower buds will be forming by mid-summer so you really don’t want to do
much pruning from that point on until after blooming is finished.
Choosing the wrong variety and expecting too much from it can also be a frustrating experience. If mid-winter blossoms are desired,
japonicas that have single or semi-double blossoms are the best. These types of blossoms develop into flowers quicker and aren’t as
likely to be damaged by freezing temperatures. If anemone blossoms, full doubles, rose-form and formal doubles are desired, I
would recommend looking for varieties that bloom in the fall or in the early spring time frame. ...Luther
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