Enjoy colorful blooms in the midst midwinter.

Peter Frank Edwards

There’s a reason why camellias are the South’s favorite flower. Southerners love their vibrant, billowy blooms—and that love is reciprocated. Natives of eastern and southern Asia, camellias thrive in the South’s hot and humid climate. These colorful flowers perform best in the Coastal, Lower, and Middle South. (Luckily for the Upper and Tropical South, hybrid selections have been created that can withstand the more extreme weather conditions in these regions.) Camellia japonica (common camellia)—the state flower of Alabama—is an old faithful of Southern flower beds. Time the planting right, and you’ll have blooming camellias from winter through spring.

Brighten up the bleak midwinter by planting rich red, snowy white, and hot pink camellias; the blooms are complemented by deep evergreen foliage. Plant them in spring or fall in well-drained acid soil in partial shade; make sure the top of the root ball is even with the soil surface, and then cover with mulch. Camellias perform well in containers too; make sure it has good drainage, and use a potting mix with 50% or more organic material. Hardy selections of camellias show off in cold weather, and they can withstand temperatures as low as 0 to 5°F.

Depending on your zone, you could have flowers starting as early as November and December. Bloom time is specified by early, midseason, and late. In the Coastal South, early is November and December, midseason is January and February, and late is March. Lower South: Early is December and January, midseason is February and March, and late is March and April. Middle South: Early is February, midseason is March and April, and late is April and May. Upper South: early is March, midseason is April, and late is May.

WATCH: The Grumpy Gardener's Guide to Camellias 

Bring the dead of winter back to life with beds filled with colorful, crowd-pleasing camellias. Thinking pink? Plant these selections such as ‘Carter’s Sunburst,’ ‘Berenice Boddy,’ ‘C.M. Wilson,’ ‘Debutante,’ ‘Elegans,’ ‘Guilio Nuccio,’ ‘Herme,’ ‘Jacks,’ ‘Lady Clare,’ or ‘Magnoliiflora.’ Wishing for more Christmas red? Try ‘Adolphe Audusson,’ ‘Daikagura,’ ‘Gigantea,’ ‘Governor Mouton,’ ‘Kramer’s Supreme,’ ‘Prince Eugene Napoleon,’ or ‘Wildfire.’ Wanting bright white? Go for ‘Alba Plena,’ ‘La Peppermint,’ or ‘Nuccio’s Gem.’

Advertisement