Friday, November 16, 2007

Roses in the Winter?

Camellias are roses in winter. These versatile small trees/shrubs of the south are so welcomed in the cold months of winter that I have half a dozen in my landscape. I grow only one Camellia japonica, and the rest are Camellia sasanqua. The camellia sasanqua was the first one I picked up when I moved here and since it is doing so well I have stuck with this species. It is the one pictured. Plus I just like saying the word sas-an-qua. I was hooked when I purchased this camellia as a one gallon shrub six years ago. I planted it on the north side of my house and actually had to move it over four years ago. As you can see, the move did not harm it at all as it is well over eight feet tall and six feet wide.

Camellias are marginally hardy in this area and while there is much controversy on how they should be grown, I have found really only one secret to longevity and good growth-plant them on the north side of something. It doesn't have to be a house. I have a camellia planted on the north side of my deck and two planted in a woodland garden under the shelter of a Juniperus virginiana, aka Easter Red Cedar and a few other shrubs and oak trees. All camellias are thriving.

When I tried planting a camellia on the south side of my deck, the foliage wound up scorched and dry. I think it warmed up with the daily sun which started sap flowing. When the winter night came the leaves froze and lost too much water to maintain a good form. I quickly moved the camellia to the north side of the deck. This particular variety blooms in early winter but I also have two camellias which are spring bloomers, one is blood red and the other crystal white. These two shrubs usually do get nipped by late freezes every year-darn! But they are well worth growing just for the beautiful glossy evergreen leaves.

Camellias like an acid soil with a good mulch. They are not harmed by pests or diseases. This particular camellia sheltered a cardinal's nest this summer. What a joy to have them so close to the house. I was truly glad my pest control cat, Orkin, did not find the cardinals as they are not pests!

in the garden....


  1. We have four Camellias planted in front of our house in the brick planter! The house does face the north! I have to cut them back several times a year to keep them from over growing the porch but they thrive in their spots. They were planted by the previous homeowners so I dont know which type they are. We moved two of them to different spots within the planters and they are beautiful with their white blooms in fall but they do look like yuck when the cold gets to them. I would prefer the red but they came with the house so I am not complaining... It was 84 degrees two days ago and then last night we had that cold snap come through so I am not sure if they survived the night or not. I have not been outside yet, just enjoying my hot coffee this morning before I get to work in the house….

  2. We had that painful cold snap too. Amazing how quickly things change around here. White is a nice color for camelias and how lucky you are to have them! I hope you get that house done soon!

  3. I have wondered for years why my Camellias did not bloom in the spring. I did not know there were fall/winter blooming variety. Today I walked around the house and discovered that it is loaded with buds. It could have had blooms for years, but since it is located to the side of the house away from the entrance I would not have seen it.

  4. hi nina! i am pleased you joined in and so happy you discovered your camelia blooming-and to think it could have been blooming for years and you only just discovered it!:) What color is it? It sounds like it is planted in much the same way mine is-on the side of the house where I can't see it unless I walk around, oh well-gives me an incentive to walk around there. Sometimes when it is so cold I need an incentive. If you would like, send me a picture of it and I will post it on here for others to see (or for just me to see if you'd rather). I like camelias and the only fault I think they have is mine don't smell! Some do though, maybe yours will so be sure to smell them. talk to you soon and please let me know the color when it blooms for you.