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Camellia japonica

Common Name(s):
Camellia, Japanese camellia
Black Tie, Adolphe Audusson Special, Grace Albritton, Higo Ohkan, Lady Laura, Magic City, Morning Glow

Numerous Cultivars are available. Camellia is one of those old southern favorites. It blooms in early spring when not much else is blooming and adds color to what might otherwise be considered a dreary landscape. Bloom color ranges from white to all shades of pink and red. The flower size is quite variable ranging from a two inch diameter up to five inches.  Depending upon the camellia variety, flowering may start as early as October and finish as late as mid March. The flowers on each plant will usually last three to four weeks.  This plant is slightly salt tolerant.

There are several different species of camellia available. The most common are this Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica) and Sasanqua camellia (Camellia sasanqua) and many hybrids of the two. Other varieties include tea-oil camellia (Camellia oleifera), tea camellia (Camellia sinensis) and Yennen camellia (Camellia reticulata). These other varieties are often used in hybridizing to bring specific genetic traits such as flower color or size, plant shape, or flower fragrance into landscape varieties.  See Camellia Hybrid Winter Series for more information on cold tollerant hybrids.  

Most camellias prefer shade to part-shade with some protection from drying winter winds. Sasanqua varieties are more tolerant of sunny locations, are more resistant to root rot, and usually bloom in late fall to early winter. All camellias grow best in well-drained soils that are high in organic matter and slightly acidic (pH 5.5 – 6.5). They are slow to grow and slow to establish, but are long-living plants in the landscape. There are some plants in Japan that are known to be over 500 years old. Because plants are slow to establish it is best to dig a large hole, 3-4 times larger than the root ball, to reduce competition for water and nutrients from surrounding trees and shrubs. After planting, use a two to three inch layer of mulch to help maintain soil moisture around the plant. 

 Play Value: Wildlife Enhancement

Wildlife Value: These plants are mildly resistant to damage by deer.

Seed: Capsule

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Some varieties are susceptible to root rot.  Excess sun, cold or shade can reduce flowering. Camellias are susceptible to a number of fungal diseases including leaf spots, black mold, flower blight, canker and root rot. Scale can be a troublesome insect pest. Aphids, thrips, mealybugs and mites may appear. Yellow leaves may mean too little acidity in the soil. Some flower bud dropping may be natural, but sometimes may be caused by overwatering or underwatering. Limit pruning to removal of dead or damaged wood, unproductive branches, and disproportionately long shoots. Shearing spoils the naturally attractive shape of the camellia. Prune immediately after flowering or in early summer to stimulate branching. Pruning later in the year can remove flower buds.

8-15 ft.
Alternate, simple, lustrous, leathery, dark green leaves; 2-4 in. long; some yellowing of foliage can occur in winter with direct sun
3-5 in. semi-double to double flowers in late winter or early spring; white, pink, red, rose, variegated; not fragrant
Partial shade (pine shade is ideal); prefers acidic, moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter
Upright, dense, pyramidal or columnar shrub; stiff and formal
5-10 ft.
cpp, tsc, play, playground, children’s garden, salt tolerant, deer resistant, evergreen

NCCES plant id: 1453

Camellia japonica Camellia japonica 'Black Tie' form
skdavidson, CC BY-NC-2.0
Camellia Japonica Camellia japonica 'black Tie' bark
skdavidson, CC BY-NC-2.0
Camellia Japonica Camellia japonica 'Black Tie' fall bud
skdavidson, CC BY-NC-2.0
Camellia Japonica Camellia Japonica
Forest and Kim Starr, CC BY - 4.0
Camellia japonica black tie Camellia japonica 'Black Tie' flower
skdavidson, CC BY-NC-2.0
Camellia japonica 'Adolphe Audusson Special' Camellia japonica 'Adolphe Audusson Special' flower
skdavidson, CC BY-NC-2.0
Camellia japonica 'Grace Albritton' Camellia japonica 'Grace Albritton' flower
skdavidson, CC BY-NC-2.0
Camellia japonica Higo 'Ohkan' Camellia japonica Higo 'Ohkan' flower
skdavidson, CC BY-NC-2.0
Camellia japonica 'Lady Laura' Camellia japonica 'Lady Laura' flower
skdavidson, CC BY-NC-2.0
Camellia japonica 'Magic City' Camellia japonica 'Magic City' flower
skdavidson, CC BY-NC-2.0
Camellia japonica 'Morning Glow' Camellia japonica 'Morning Glow' flower
skdavidson, CC BY-NC-2.0