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Tea Camellia Camellia sinensis

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
ka-MEE-lee-ah sih-NEN-sis
Description

The Tea Camellia is a hardy evergreen shrub or small tree that is probably the most widely grown Camellia in the world traditionally used for caffeinated teas.  They are harvested as the leaves emerge beginning early spring and processed in different ways to create white, green, oolong, and black teas.  Smaller young leaves and leaf buds are used for making green tea, the older larger leaves for oolong and black tea, and the buds for white tea. There are two major varieties.  Camellia sinensis var. sinensis is the Chinese variety that has small leaves and is more tolerant of cold weather hardy into USDA Zone 6.  C. sinensis var. assamica is from the Assam region of northern India with larger leaves hardy to zone 7 and south. The differences in taste, color, and aroma between these teas are achieved by varying the variety, climate, harvest, oxidation, and processing.

This plant is slow-growing and easily maintained.  Unlike many other Camellia species, it is heat and drought tolerant and can perform well in full sun. The attractive dense dark-green leaves and blooms make it a good plant for screening, foundation planting, hedge, or an attractive patio or container plant.  For optimal tea production, it is best to prune to 4-5'  just before spring growth to encourage shoots. The flowers attract bees and it is mildly resistant to damage by deer.

Insects and Diseases: Camellias are susceptible to viruses and some fungal diseases such as dieback, cankers, flower blight, and root rot.  Watch for scales, aphids, planthoppers, and spider mites.  They are especially problematic on stressed plants.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Rosea
    Medium soft pink flowers; semi-double form; slow growing
  • var. assamica
    Shrub to large tree; native to India Assam region; larger leaves
  • var. sinensis
    Chinese variety; smaller leaves; more cold hardy than other varieties of this species
Rosea, var. assamica, var. sinensis
Tags:
#evergreen#hardy#small tree#fragrant flowers#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#white flowers#shrub#deer resistant#edible leaves#edible buds#bee friendly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Rosea
    Medium soft pink flowers; semi-double form; slow growing
  • var. assamica
    Shrub to large tree; native to India Assam region; larger leaves
  • var. sinensis
    Chinese variety; smaller leaves; more cold hardy than other varieties of this species
Rosea, var. assamica, var. sinensis
Tags:
#evergreen#hardy#small tree#fragrant flowers#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#white flowers#shrub#deer resistant#edible leaves#edible buds#bee friendly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Camellia
    Species:
    sinensis
    Family:
    Theaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Used as a medicinal product
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China South-Central & China Southeast
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts bees
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Mildly deer resistant
    Edibility:
    Leaves and buds are dried and used to make tea. Fragrant flowers a source of edible oil.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 4 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    3-lobed smooth fruit begins green maturing to dark brown and cracks open to reveal 3 rounded-cuneate seeds. Seeds can take up to 12 months to develop from bud blossom to mature fruit.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Flower Petals:
    7 - 20 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    1-1.5 in. white fragrant flowers with 7-8 white or pink tinged petals and yellow stamens. Flowers in the fall to early winter single or in clusters. Flowering starts when plants are about 4 years old.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Alternate, simple, lustrous, dark green serrated leaves light green below. var. assamica have larger 3-5" less serrated leaves. var. sinensis leaves are 2-3" long. Young leaves are sparsely hairy then become glabrous with age.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Edible Garden
    Garden for the Blind
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Heat