10 Things All Camellia Enthusiasts Need To Know
Brush up on your flower facts.
The camellia plant is one of our favorite evergreen flowering shrubs. These plants provide some of the first signs of the season when they burst out in big, colorful blooms come winter and spring. Depending on the selection, camellias bloom out in splashy shades of white, pink, red, and magenta, and some are even speckled and striped. They provide beautiful garden color throughout the South. Some of the most popular camellias to plant in the South include ‘Yuletide’ Camellia (Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’) and Early Wonder Camellia (Camellia japonica ‘Early Autumn’), both of which can be found in the Southern Living Plant Collection.
From their showy flowers to their tall upright growth to their glossy, deep green leaves, there’s plenty to love about camellias. Read on for a few camellia facts all enthusiasts should know, and you just might learn something new about these Southern-favorite shrubs.
Not all camellias bloom in winter and spring.
While we often think of camellias as cold-weather, early-spring bloomers, sasanqua camellias (hybrids developed from the Camellia sasanqua species) bloom in fall. These hybrids provide vibrant autumn color and are easy to train into espalier, hedge, or climbing forms. Try Diana Camellia (Camellia sasanqua ‘TDN 1110’) for lush white blooms and Alabama Beauty Camellia (Camellia sasanqua ‘TDN 111’) for rosy red blooms in October and November.
Camellias are shady ladies.
Camellias thrive in partial shade with plenty of protection from the bright afternoon sun. Once established, they grow best in well-draining soil with minimal watering.
Camellias require some pruning.
After the blooming season, camellias require light pruning, including removing dead woody bits and thinning the shrub's dense foliage so that the branches have space to grow and new blossoms have room to bloom.
There are thousands of named camellia hybrids.
There are over 300 known species of camellias and countless thousands of hybrid cultivars. The most well-known camellia species is the common camellia (Camellia japonica).
Camellias are native to Asia.
Camellias come to us from the eastern and southern regions of Asia. Today, they can be found growing around the world, and in Asia, their reach extends north to Korea and south to Vietnam.
The camellia is Alabama’s state flower.
The camellia was adopted as Alabama’s state flower in 1959. Prior to that, Alabama’s state flower was the goldenrod, which remains the state flower of Kentucky and Nebraska today.
Camellias signify love and devotion.
Camellia flowers have several symbolic associations. In the U.S., camellias signify themes of love, admiration, longing, adoration, affection, devotion, desire, and passion. In Japan, the camellia flower (or “tsubaki”) is prized for its beauty and has associations with the sacred and the divine.
Camellias are relatively deer-resistant.
Deer and other garden nuisances are not known to bother camellias. These shrubs are not usually deer’s favorite snacks, which makes them a good choice for planting in areas throughout the South where deer are known to graze.
Camellias can grow to be very tall.
These shrubs are not usually low-to-the-ground growers. While a few camellias grow from 2-4 feet tall, others grow straight up on strong woody trunks and can reach heights of 6-15 feet tall with 4-7 foot widths. One of the largest camellia species is known to grow as high as 20 feet tall.
Camellias play a role in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
One of the plot points in Harper Lee's classic 1960 novel involves Jem Finch (Atticus’ son and Scout’s brother), Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, and her camellia flowers.
WATCH: Grumpy Gardener’s Guide to Camellias
Are camellias your favorite flowering shrubs? Do you have camellias in your yard or do you tend them in containers?