Camellias adapted to take northern root
BY BARRY FUGATT Garden World
Saturday, November 17, 2012
11/17/12 at 5:42 AM
As a Southern-born horticulturist, it never occurred to me that I would one day see camellias blooming and thriving as far north as Tulsa. Camellias, I always assumed, would forever remain treasured shrubs of Scarlett O'Hara country.
Happily, I was wrong. Determined plant breeders have developed camellias perfectly at home in Tulsa-area gardens. And what a beautiful contribution cold-hardy camellias add to a garden.
October Magic, one of many Camellia sasanqua varieties, is an evergreen shrub I've enjoyed for four years in my garden. It never fails to produce loads of rich pink, rose-like flowers in mid to late fall. I also grow half a dozen other cold-hardy camellia varieties. Incredibly, some varieties bloom well into December. Imagine that: shrubs beautifully blooming in a Tulsa garden during the holiday season. That's totally amazing!
Camellias flower in a wide range of vivid colors: deep red to pure white. And camellia foliage is almost as pretty as the flowers. The evergreen foliage is lustrous dark green and sparkles in the sunlight. I'm equally impressed with camellia's heat and drought tolerance. A weekly watering has kept camellias in my garden free from any sign of drought damage.
Camellia sasanqua has long been recognized as one of the most cold-hardy camellia species. Besides October Magic, breeders have developed many other C. sasanqua varieties such as Dianne, Daydream and Pink Snow. New varieties hit the garden market every spring.
Cold-hardy camellia hybrids - crosses between C. sasanqua, C. japonica and other species - also are available in the nursery trade. When buying cold-hardy camellias, note that some varieties are labeled fall bloomers, and others are labeled spring bloomers. In the deep South, fall and spring bloomers perform equally well. Fall bloomers appear to bloom a little more reliably in our colder climate, however.
Camellias are understory plants by nature. Ideally, they should be grown under large trees or on the east side of a home to moderate their exposure to sun and wind. Thoroughly mix several inches of peat or compost into the planting hole when setting them out. Plant them a little high, an inch or two above grade. And spread a thick, 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch over the root zone.
Don't over-fertilize camellias. They are not heavy feeders. A single application of slow-release Osmocote in April is sufficient. A thorough weekly watering generally meets their moisture needs. Plant camellias spring or fall.
Original Print Headline: Camellias adapt to take northern root
Barry Fugatt is director of horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center & Linnaeus Teaching Garden. He can be reached at 918-746-5125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
October Magic camellias make a beautiful evergreen shrub that flowers in mid to late fall. The cold-hardy shrub's foliage is almost as pretty as the flowers. Courtesy