Edited by MG Calla Victoria
Camellias are a wonderful additions to any landscape. They are evergreen shrubs with large deep green waxy leaves year around, and they bloom from fall until late spring depending on the variety. The Camellia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. They were originally found in Eastern and Southern Asia, from the Himalayas east to Japan and Indonesia. The most common varieties of Camellias are the Camellia sasanqua, and the Camellia japonica. The sasanquas start blooming in September, while the japonicas, like mine, put on their show from January through late spring with big bodacious blooms ranging from red to white and everything in between. The easiest way to remember when they bloom is by the first letter of the name, sasanquas, start with the letter “s” and they start blooming in Septembers, while the japonicas start blooming in January. Although considered a shrub, some Camellia varieties get as large as 15 feet tall, but you can control the size by pruning. Camellias are nicknamed the Japanese Rose because their large double blooms do resemble several varieties of Roses.
Camellias will grow in most well-drained (or to say dry conditions) slightly acid soil. A soil pH (degree of acidity or alkalinity) of 6.0 - 6.5 is considered best for Camellias. However, they will tolerate a lower pH. Plants in the sun may suffer scald on the leaves or leaves may appear yellow rather than deep green. It is recommended that Camellia sasanqua generally do better in the sun than those of C. japonica. However my japonica is planted facing east and gets quite a lot of sun with no problem. In fact I have never had issues with that plant. I received it about three Februarys ago as a valentine’s gift, and it has been wonderful. I really forget that it is there until it starts blooming. I have never fertilized it, or pruned it so far. It gets zero attention and looks amazing.
Consider planting your Camellias along with other shrubs for an amazing display. During the late spring through early fall when the Camellias are not in bloom, allow its flossy deep green foliage to be a backdrop of other shrubs and flowers. Plant masses of brilliant flowering plants near your Camellias for an electric display.
Camellias are generally planted in the late fall through the early spring, although they may be set out any month of the year if properly cared for. Adequate moisture is a necessity until the roots become well established in the soil. The newly developed roots will then provide enough moisture for the plant to start growth when spring arrives.
Water is not only essential for normal growth but a continuous supply ensures constant mineral uptake and maximum expansion of cells making up the new growth. Irregular water supplies interrupt the growth process which can result in stunted leaves and stems.
Fertilizers should be applied in an economic but methodical process to ensure a steady release of nutrients over the growing season. Applications can be applied a week or two before new growth buds begin to swell. It may be best to apply nutrition in small to moderate quantities of three or more periods from March to September.
Major pruning should best be completed over winter or by early spring. While spring and summer growth develops, minor pruning can be accomplished by breaking out soft new growth. The ultimate pruning plan will reflect one's interests in Camellia culture. Thick vegetation is the rule for landscape plants. Inside branches should be removed to reduce the accumulation of pests, scale in particular.
Aside from being beautiful and ornamental, Camellia sinensis, the tea plant, is of major commercial importance because tea is made from its leaves. While the finest teas are produced by C. sinensis thanks to millennia of selective breeding of this species, many other Camellias can be used to produce a similar beverage. In some parts of Japan, tea made from C. sasanqua leaves is popular. Tea oil used in skincare and cooking oil is made by pressing the seeds of C. oleifera, C. japonica. Camellia oil is also used to clean and protect the blades of cutting instruments.
This article is published in the March 21, 2015 edition of Data News Weekly.