Grumpy Gardener's Guide to Camellias

Grumpy Gardener Steve Bender shares tips and tricks on how to plant and care for one of the South's favorite plants.


[MUSIC] And now the grumpy gardener. Hi, I'm Steve Bender. I'm Southern Living's grumpy gardener. [SOUND] Camellias, there are so many different types. There are so many different selections out there. So many different colors, so many different flower forms and because of this, they have, as a group, they have a very long bloom season. Some of them start blooming as early as December. Other ones will wait until March and April. So, that you could have, if you have a good selection of camellias, you could have flowers all the way from winter, all the way through the spring. Well, one of the reasons that camellias have become kind of a signature plant of the south is that they really like our climate. They like, they like the heat. They like the humidity. And they're not terribly cold hardy. So, any place that the temperature was gonna drop, let's say, below zero they're probably gonna freeze to the ground and die. So that's the reason that they like it here because it mimics their home climate, where they come from, which is in Asia. And they're just perfect plants for the South. So, if you like to have camellias in your yard here's a couple tips. Number one, they need, to be, in sort of a half sun half shade location. Usually under, some tall hardwoods or pine trees is ideal. You don't wanna put em in full blazing sun, but you don't wanna put em in deep shade either, okay? Number two, they need to have good, well-drained soil, and it needs to be acid. If it's alkaline, if it's got a lot of limestone in it, the leaves are gonna kind of turn yellow and they don't do so well. Make sure that you don't plant them too low. You want to plant them so the top of the root ball is just even with the soil surface and then just put some mulch over the top. And, once they get established, they're very easy to grow. They're very drought-tolerant. You won't have to prune them very much, and all you'll really need to do is, clip off the flowers and take them inside and float them in a bowl of water in the wintertime or the early spring, and they'll be just beautiful. There's a lot of camellia societies out there, and they just live and breathe and dream about Camellias. And they have these Camellia shows that generally take place, usually around February of the year. And people plan for these shows for the whole year. And you may wonder, when you see these flowers at the shows, how did they get so big? Cuz they're a lot bigger than the ones I have on my Camellia at home. They have this little trick. There is a, they will take a bud on a camellia and they have this little chemical that's called Gibberellic acid. And you put one drop of that on the bud and it makes all the cells elongate. And the flower, when it opens, will be much, much bigger than usual. I've seen, I've seen Camellia flowers that are actually about as big as a bread plate. But there's all different kinds of Camellias. And that's just because you have the biggest Camellia, doesn't mean it's the best Camellia. There's ones that had very small blooms, but they're perfectly formed. There's ones that have, they're double flowers. There's ones that are single flowers. There's ones that have, there's a million different kinds of flower shapes out there. Some of the camellias will grow to be six feet tall, some of them will grow to be 30 feet tall. So when you go to the garden center, you really need to read the plant tag and find out, or, or ask the nurseryman, a little bit of information. Or another good, guide is read our Southern Living garden book. It is a wealth of information on Camellias and everything else which you could ever wanna plant in your garden. You can find out everything you need to know about Southern gardening, Southern Living Magazine, and at
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