How To Grow And Care For Sasanqua Camellia

The easy-to-grow Sasanqua camellia, commonly known as Yuletide camellia, combines stunning autumn flowers with handsome foliage.

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The Sasanqua camellia (Yuletide camellia) is one of the classic plants that define our region and its beauty can dominate autumn. Cultivated in Japan since the 14th century and in the American South for nearly 200 years, this shrub lacks the attention it deserves.

Sasanquas display laxity, grace, and airiness unmatched by common camellias. A common camellia looks dense and stiff in the landscape, but a sasanqua's branches reach up and out. This structure leaves space between, and its stems are much more pliable. Combine smaller and beautiful foliage with a graceful form, and you wind up with a plant you can use in many different ways.

Plant Attributes

Common name Yuletide camellia
Botanical name Sasanqua camellia
Family Theaceae
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 10 to 12 feet high and wide
Sun Exposure Blooms are best with 6 hours of sun per day, but need partial shade in order to avoid sunburn.
Soil Type Well-drained; clay, loam, and sand are very hospitable to this plant.
pH Range Neutral acidity
Bloom Time Depending on the selection and where you live, sasanqua can bloom any time from late summer through autumn and into winter—the red-flowered 'Yuletide' blooms around Christmastime. Flowers may be single, semi-double, or double, usually with a central burst of bright yellow stamens.
Flower Colors Range from cherry-red to shell pink to fairest white.
Hardiness Zones  USDA Zones 7-9
Native Area  Asia

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Yuletide Camellia Care

Suited to all areas except the Tropical South, Yuletide camellia are a cinch to grow. Give them moist, lightly acid, well-drained soil that contains plenty of organic matter. They're not quite as cold-hardy as common camellias, though. In the Upper South, plant them in places sheltered from winter wind and sun, or keep them in pots in cool greenhouses over winter.


This densely branched, tree-like, evergreen shrub needs time in the sun to bloom. At least 6 hours a day will aid in nurturing the blossoms. But if placed in an area that does not get partial shade, the flowers will experience sunburn.


For a broadleaf evergreen such as Sasanqua camillia, well drained soil with clay, loam and sand work well.


Camillia sasanqua likes water, so its soil should remain moist. The water demand is high in the first growing season to establish an extensive root system, so water every 1-2 days. Arid soil and dry air flower buds are developing can result in a less flowers and petals. In autumn and winter, water twice a month or so to ensure the soil is not dry. You may reduce frequency of watering once the plant is established.

Temperature and Humidity

The ideal temperature for this variety of Camellia is 64 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and recommended relative humidity ranges from 70% to 80%.


There is no need to fertilize this variety of camellia in the spring. In summer, slow-release nitrogenous fertilizer can be applied once during the stem and leaf growth period to make leaves greener. Phosphate-potassium fertilizer can be applied 1-2 times from the time of bud appearance to blooming.


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Other Types of Camellia

  • Camellia sinensis: The leaves and leaf buds of this variety are used to produce tea. Common names include tea plant, tea shrub, and tea tree.
  • Camellia oleifera: This species looks much similar to Yuletide camellia except the dark green, evergreen leaves are a bit larger, three to five inches long and two to three inches wide.
  • Camellia japonica: This is common camellia, and there are thousands of cultivars, with many colors and forms of flowers.


Yuletide camellia grows slowly, so avoid over-pruning. Promptly cutting off withering flowers can reduce nutrient depletion, resulting in robust growth. Cut off weaker, diseased, and downward-growing branches, and target old branches that no longer blossom on the shrub.

camellia leaves

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Common Pests & Plant Diseases

If there are concave yellow spots on the leaf surfaces, white, cotton-like patches on the leaf backs, or pink nodules on the branches, it is likely caused by scale insects. Scale insects often flourish thanks to poor ventilation.

Twig blight can make the branches of Yuletide camellia necrotic and turn leaves from green to pale yellow. Leaves gradually become dry and start falling off from the top until finally, whole branches shrivel and die. Timely pruning of withered flowers and old, weak branches after blooming can effectively reduce the incidence of this disease.

If there are rust spots on the petals, the plant may be infected with Camellia petal blight. The infected flowers should be cut off immediately to avoid the spread of pathogens. If a diseased flower falls on the soil, remove it along with the surrounding soil and lay down some new soil.

dead camellia

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does Yuletide camellia live?

    This variety of camellia grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 40 years or more.

  • What's the difference between common camellia and Yuletide camellia?

    Common camellia has the potential to grow to a height of 25 feet, can easily be called tree-like at this size. Yuletide camellia will only grow to about a quarter of this size, and is more shrub-like. Common camellia also has thousands of cultivars, while the Yuletide camellia blossoms only offer a handful of colors.

  • Where can I place Yuletide camellia?

    Sasanqua are incredibly versatile. For example, dwarf types are lovely for foundation plantings, berms, low borders, or assembled at the foot of taller plants, such as glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum). Upright forms can be clipped into hedges, used for tall screens, or pruned into tree form for use in courtyards, corner plantings, small yards, and formal beds.

  • Can I grow Yuletide camellia inside?

    You can definitely grow the Yuletide camellia inside, gifting yourself a beautiful blooming houseplant. Just ensure the pot is placed near a window with Southern exposure.

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