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Thea Japonica Camellia japonica

Phonetic Spelling
ka-MEE-lee-ah jah-PON-ih-kah
Description

Camellia is an old southern gardening favorite. 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. 

Most Camellias prefer shade to part-shade with some protection from drying winter winds. 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. 

Excess sun, cold or shade can reduce flowering. Yellow leaves may mean too little acidity in the soil. Some flower bud dropping may be natural, but sometimes may be caused by over-watering or under-watering. 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.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Leaves evergreen, coriaceous, serrate 
  • Flowers axillary, giant (usually are double)
  • Flowers late winter to early spring (Feb. - April)
  • Leaves 2-3" long 

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Cottage Style Foundation Planting Water Feature Woodland Walk Collector’s Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Adolphe Audusson Special'
    Large red blooms heavily variegated with white; semi-double form; compact growth
  • 'Black Tie'
    Dark red flower; formal double form; dense upright growth
  • 'Grace Albritton'
    Variable color white, pink, red flowers; formal double form
  • 'Higo Ohkan'
    Medium sized white flower with rose red border; single form
  • 'Lady Laura'
    Medium to large pink variegated rose flower; peony to rose, double to formal double form
  • 'Magic City'
    Medium fire red variegated white flowers; peony form
  • 'Morning Glow'
    Medium white flower; formal double form
'Adolphe Audusson Special', 'Black Tie', 'Grace Albritton', 'Higo Ohkan', 'Lady Laura', 'Magic City', 'Morning Glow'
Tags:
#evergreen#white flowers#wildlife plant#pink flowers#red flowers#salt tolerant#cover plant#tsc#playground#cpp#children's garden#pollinator plant#fantz#early spring flowers#tsc-s#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Adolphe Audusson Special'
    Large red blooms heavily variegated with white; semi-double form; compact growth
  • 'Black Tie'
    Dark red flower; formal double form; dense upright growth
  • 'Grace Albritton'
    Variable color white, pink, red flowers; formal double form
  • 'Higo Ohkan'
    Medium sized white flower with rose red border; single form
  • 'Lady Laura'
    Medium to large pink variegated rose flower; peony to rose, double to formal double form
  • 'Magic City'
    Medium fire red variegated white flowers; peony form
  • 'Morning Glow'
    Medium white flower; formal double form
'Adolphe Audusson Special', 'Black Tie', 'Grace Albritton', 'Higo Ohkan', 'Lady Laura', 'Magic City', 'Morning Glow'
Tags:
#evergreen#white flowers#wildlife plant#pink flowers#red flowers#salt tolerant#cover plant#tsc#playground#cpp#children's garden#pollinator plant#fantz#early spring flowers#tsc-s#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Camellia
    Species:
    japonica
    Family:
    Theaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China , Korea, Central & Southern Jap
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts pollinators and provides cover for wintering birds.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    slightly salt tolerant
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 13 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 5 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Dense
    Erect
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    A woody capsule up to 1" in length.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    Variegated
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    7 - 20 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    3-5 in. semi-double to double flowers in late winter or early spring are white, pink, red, rose, variegated.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Long-lasting
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Alternate, simple, lustrous, leathery, dark green leaves are 2-4 in. long. They are ovate to elliptic with serrated margins.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Leaf Scar Shape:
    C-shaped, Cresent shaped
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    Dark brown, covered with blackish lenticels, leaf scars crescent-shaped.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Salt
    Problems:
    Frequent Disease Problems
    Frequent Insect Problems