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Camellia japonica (Japanese Camellia)

Japanese Camellia, Common Camellia

Camellia, Camellias, How to grow Camellias, Camellias bloom time, Camellia bloom season, Camellia japonica, Winter Blooming Camellias, Cold hardy Camellias, Spring Blooming Camellias,

There are numerous species of Camellia (about 250), but the Camellia types commonly grown as landscape shrubs are Camellia sasanqua, Camellia japonica, and hybrids of these.

Camellia japonica is the predominant species of the genus and counts over 30 000 cultivars in a wide array of flower forms and colors. Its shapely habit, handsome, glossy foliage, and fabulous flowers have attracted gardeners for hundreds of years in Japan, China, and Korea.

What is Japanese Camellia?

Camellia japonica, commonly known as the Japanese camellia, is a native of eastern and southern Asia, from Japan to Korea and China. Renowned for its stunning display of showy flowers and lustrous, dark green leaves,

Habit and Size: This evergreen shrub or small tree showcases an upright or spreading growth habit and can reach up to 20 feet (6 meters) in height and 10 feet (3 meters) in width, although it often remains smaller in home landscapes.

Flowers: The blooms of Japanese camellias come in every size, from miniature flowers, 1.5 inches (4 cm), to huge blossoms reaching 5 inches across (12 cm). Their color range from pure white to soft pink to dark red. They come in various forms and may be single, semi-double, double, formal double, or full peony form.

Blooming Season: Camellia japonica blooms from late winter into spring, with the specific timing varying by variety. The flowers on each plant usually last three to four weeks.

Foliage: The evergreen foliage of Japanese camellias is equally prized by gardeners. The leaves are larger than those of Camellia sasanqua, usually about 4 inches long (10 cm), and more leathery. They remain deep, shiny green all year and make wonderful dense hedges.

Hardiness: Camellia japonica is hardy in USDA zones 7 through 9. It is an excellent choice for a woodland garden or as a specimen plant in a border. It also performs well in containers, making it suitable for patios and courtyards.

Lifespan: with proper care, Japanese camellia plants can live for hundreds of years, providing beauty for many generations. Some Japanese camellias around the emperor’s palace in Japan are known to be more than 500 years old.

Guide Information

Hardiness 7 - 9
Heat Zones 7 - 8
Climate Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H1
Plant Type Shrubs
Genus Camellia
Exposure Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Winter
Height 6' - 20'
(180cm - 6.1m)
Spread 6' - 10'
(180cm - 3m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders, Wall-Side Borders, Hedges And Screens, Patio And Containers, Walls And Fences
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Japanese Garden, Traditional Garden
Camellia japonica ‘Ave Maria’
Camellia japonica ‘Desire’
Camellia japonica ‘Kramer’s Supreme’

Why Should I Grow a Japanese Camellia?

Growing Camellia japonica in your garden can offer several advantages. Here are some reasons why you might want to consider this plant:

  • Year-Round Interest: With its glossy evergreen leaves, Camellia japonica adds color and texture to your garden throughout the year.
  • Late Winter and Early Spring Blooms: When many other plants are dormant, Camellia japonica bursts into bloom, providing a much-needed splash of color. Its flowers can offer an uplifting sight during the grey, dull days of late winter and early spring.
  • Variety of Flower Forms and Colors: Camellia japonica comes in many different cultivars, with flower forms ranging from single to double and colors from pure white to deep red. This diversity allows you to choose the perfect Camellia to suit your personal aesthetic.
  • Versatility: Whether you have a spacious garden or a small patio, there’s a place for Camellia japonica. It can serve as an accent plant, be part of a mixed border, or even be grown in a pot as a patio plant.
  • Low-Maintenance: Once established, Camellia japonica is a relatively low-maintenance plant. It is resistant to most pests and diseases.
  • Deer and Rabbit Resistant: The glossy leaves of Camellia japonica are not typically favored by deer or rabbits, making it a good choice if these animals frequent your garden.
  • Long Lifespan: Camellias are known for their longevity. They can thrive and provide beauty for decades and even centuries with proper care.

In summary, Camellia japonica is an excellent addition to the garden for its year-round beauty, range of flower forms, and low-maintenance care. Its ability to bloom in late winter and early spring can add color and interest to your landscape when many other plants are dormant.

Camellia japonica ‘Apple Blossom’
Camellia japonica ‘Australis’
Camellia japonica ‘Lavinia Maggi’

Garden Design with Camellia japonica

Incorporating Camellia japonica into your garden design can add elegance and year-round interest. Here are some ideas for integrating this beautiful plant into your landscape:

  • Woodland Garden: Camellias naturally thrive under the dappled shade of taller trees, making them an excellent addition to a woodland-style garden. Underplant with bulbs like snowdrops and early daffodils for a beautiful late winter to early spring display.
  • Formal Garden or Hedge: Their neat, glossy leaves make camellias perfect for a more formal garden design. They can be shaped into hedges or used as a stunning backdrop to a perennial border.
  • Specimen Plant: Due to its striking flowers and attractive form, a well-placed Camellia japonica can be a stunning focal point in the garden. Make sure it’s visible from a window to enjoy its blooms in late winter and early spring.
  • Container Planting: Camellias can be grown in containers, making them a good choice for patios, courtyards, or balcony gardens. Pair with spring bulbs or trailing ivy for an attractive arrangement.
  • Mixed Border: Combine Camellia japonica with other shrubs, perennials, and bulbs for a varied border. Companion plants with contrasting foliage, such as ferns or hostas, can be especially effective.
Camellia japonica ‘Bob Hope’
Camellia japonica ‘Bonomiana’
Camellia japonica ‘Pink Perfection’

Camellia Companion Plants

When choosing companion plants for Camellia japonica, consider those that can tolerate similar light shade conditions and acidic soils. Below are some plants that pair well with Camellias:

  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas are classic companions for Camellias as they share the same acidic soil preference. They can also provide a staggered bloom time for ongoing floral interest.
  • Ferns: The texture of fern fronds provide a nice contrast to the glossy leaves of the Camellia. Ferns like Japanese Painted Fern or Christmas Fern can do particularly well in similar conditions.
  • Hostas: With their large leaves in various shades of green, blue, and variegated forms, hostas can add another layer of interest beneath Camellias.
  • Hydrangeas: The big, bold flowers of Hydrangeas can add a burst of summer color and contrast well with the more subtle beauty of Camellias.
  • Heuchera (Coral Bells): With their diverse foliage colors ranging from chartreuse to deep burgundy, they add a pop of color to the understory and contrast beautifully with the dark green leaves of Camellia.
  • Hellebores: Also known as Lenten or Christmas Roses, these provide early spring blooms that can coincide nicely with the blooming period of some Camellia varieties.
  • Bulbs: Spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses can provide a pop of color at the base of the Camellia in late winter and early spring.

Remember to take into account the specific needs of each plant in terms of light, water, and soil conditions. It’s not just about aesthetics; the plants need to coexist in a mutually beneficial way.

Camellia japonica ‘Korean Fire’
Camellia japonica ‘Drama Girl’
Camellia japonica ‘Debutante’

Growing Tips

Growing Camellia japonica can be a rewarding experience if you follow these tips:

Planting Location: Choose a spot that offers partial shade, especially in the afternoon. Camellias appreciate shelter from strong winds and hot sun, which can scorch their leaves. An east or north-facing spot is ideal. Older camellia plants can thrive in full sun when mature enough to have their roots shaded by a dense canopy of leaves.

Soil Conditions: Camellias prefer well-drained, fertile soil that is slightly acidic (pH 5.5 to 6.5). If your soil is heavy clay or very sandy, consider improving it by adding organic matter such as compost or peat moss.

Watering: Camellias cannot withstand prolonged drought. Watering regularly and deeply is vital, particularly during the growing season and in the fall when the flower buds form.

Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch (like pine needles or compost) around the base of the plant to help retain soil moisture and keep the roots cool. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the stem to prevent rot.

Feeding: Fertilizing is unnecessary and can be damaging if not done properly. Artificial fertilizers tend to be too strong. Excessive or late feeding can lead to bud drop. Provide an annual mulch of old manure or compost if your soil is adequate. Top it up in summer if required. You may also sprinkle some blood and bone on the mulch in early spring (before the growth starts) and early fall (when flower buds are forming).

Pruning: Camellias generally require minimal pruning, but if needed, prune just after flowering to shape the plant or limit its size. Do not prune too late in the season, as this can remove next year’s flower buds.

Protection: In colder zones, protect your Camellia in winter by wrapping it in burlap or using an anti-desiccant spray to prevent wind burn and freeze damage.

Remember, Camellias are slow-growing plants, and it may take a few years for them to establish and bloom profusely, but their beauty is well worth the wait!

Other Main Camellia Types

Camellia sinensis (Tea Plant)
Camellia sasanqua
Camellia x williamsii (Hybrid Camellia)

Discover These Helpful Guides for Further Reading

Learn How To Plant, Care and Grow Gorgeous Camellias
Which Camellia is Right for my Garden?
Cold Hardy Camellias
Most Fragrant Camellias
How to Espalier a Camellia
Compare All Camellia
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Camellia
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 7 - 9
Heat Zones 7 - 8
Climate Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H1
Plant Type Shrubs
Genus Camellia
Exposure Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Winter
Height 6' - 20'
(180cm - 6.1m)
Spread 6' - 10'
(180cm - 3m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders, Wall-Side Borders, Hedges And Screens, Patio And Containers, Walls And Fences
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Japanese Garden, Traditional Garden
Compare All Camellia
Compare Now
Guides with
Camellia

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