You hardly notice the camellia until it blooms, but when it does, it’s quite a show
Most of the year you hardly notice the camellia here at the acre. Its dense foliage and willingness to be cut and shaped make it a perfect backdrop for the exotic looking gingers, callas, and bananas in the tropical garden. It also does a good job screening that part of my old house from view.
But every spring, usually beginning in late March, it turns from an unremarkable green hedge into a 15-foot-tall wall bursting with big, bright red flowers that demand your attention.
The flowers are fairly good-sized, about 4 inches across on average, and the plant blooms continuously throughout the spring. Better yet, it requires little-to-no water, and, unlike my forever whitefly-ridden hibiscus, has no pests that I know of (unless you count the occasional nest of mockingbirds who are very territorial).
The flowers are the “formal double” form, but I have no idea what the subspecies is. However, thanks to an old manila envelope filled with house documents from the previous owner, I do know it was planted in 1987 after the master bedroom addition, making it about 37 years old.
Currently it’s 15 feet tall, but in early summer, after most of the flowers are done, I cut it back to 9 feet which is even with the roofline and lets the late afternoon sun shine on the lower leaves. The foliage grows in extra dense and provides the perfect amount of shade to keep this stucco house cool during the hottest part of the year.
I suppose my only complaint about the camellia is the mess the flowers make. It blooms prodigiously and regularly drops masses of old flowers, which are wet and slippery if you walk on them.
All considered though, it’s not a bad price to pay for a plant that’s easy to grow as well as easy on the eyes.
Camellia Japonica Specs
|Common Name||Japanese Camellia, Camellia|
|Botanical Name||Camellia japonica|
|Plant Family||Theaceae (Tea family – can be brewed as tea too)|
|Plant Type||Shrub (can be pruned to tree form)|
|Mature Size||7-15 ft. and 5-10 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Partial (best out of direct sun)|
|Soil Type||Any (not picky)|
|Soil pH||Any (not picky)|
|Water||Moderate. Needs more when young|
|Bloom Time||Winter, Spring|
|Flower Color||Red, Pink & White|
|Hardiness||Zones 7-9 (USDA)|
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