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. Long-lived, some Japanese camellias, around the emperor's palace in Japan, are known to be more than 500 years old. Unfortunately, Japanese camellias are not always cold-hardy.
- The blooms of Japanese camellias come in every size, from miniature flowers, 1.5 in. (4 cm), to huge blossoms reaching 5 in. across (12 cm). Their color range from pure white to soft pink to dark red.
- They come in a wide array of forms and may be single, semi-double, double, formal double or full peony form. They all create a spectacular floral display from late winter to spring. The flowers on each plant usually last three to four weeks.
- 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.
- Slow growers, Japanese camellias are broadleaved, evergreen shrubs that may grow up to 25 feet (7.5 m), but more often reach 6-12 feet (180-360 cm) with a spread of 6-10 feet (180-300 cm).
- Part shade lovers, Japanese camellias are best grown in consistently moist, acidic, organically rich, well-drained soils. Apply a root mulch (leaves or shredded bark) and provide a site sheltered from cold, dry winds as buds and flowers may be damaged by cold winds. Protect from early morning sun and from direct hot summer afternoon sun. Older camellia plants can thrive in full sun when they are mature enough to have their roots shaded by a dense canopy of leaves. Camellia japonica shrubs are less sun tolerant than Camellia sasanqua but slightly more cold hardy.