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Natsu-tsubaki Stewartia pseudocamellia

Previously known as:

  • Stewartia grandiflora
  • Stewartia koreana
Phonetic Spelling
stew-AR-tee-ah soo-doh-kuh-MEE-lee-uh
Description

The Japanese Stewartia is a small to medium-sized deciduous flowering tree with multi-season interest. It is multistemmed and pyramidal to oval-shaped with low branches. The plant may reach a height of 12 to 40 feet tall and 8 to 25 feet wide. White Camellia-like flowers appear from June to August, and the fall foliage has bright colors. The attractive flaking and peeling bark adds a special interest to the winter garden. The plant is a member of the Theaceae family and is related to the Camellia. 

The Japanese Stewartia is native to Japan and Korea. It is typically found in mountain forests. The tree is commonly grown in Europe and North America. It is tolerant of the cold weather of New England.

The genus's name, Stewartia, is in honor of John Stuart who was a 16th-century Scottish botanist. The spelling was the result of a transcription error. During the 19th-century, the name Stuartia was used; however, the original spelling is now accepted. The species name, pseudocamellia, means "false camellia."

The Japanese Stewartia prefers moist, well-drained, organically rich, sandy, loamy, soils. The tree will not do well in clay, rocky, or dry soils, and it is drought intolerant. Sheltering is required to protect the tree from winter winds. The plant prefers full sun to partial shade. In very hot, humid, summer climates, it is best to avoid the hot afternoon sun. It is slow-growing, and it may be difficult to transplant. The tree may be propagated by seeds and softwood cuttings.

The bark of the Japanese Stewartia is multi-colored and peels in strips of gray, orange, and reddish-brown. The leaves are dark green and transition to a brilliant orange, red, and burgundy in the fall. The flowers are delicate, cup-shaped white flowers with golden centers. The fruits are greenish to brownish, oval, and hard capsules. 

Consider this plant if you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 5a to 8b.  The Japanese Stewartia may be well suited as a specimen plant near a patio, as a border, in small groups, or woodland setting. This tree will truly add multi-season interest to your home landscape.

Seasons of Interest:

Foliage: Fall             Bloom:  Summer       Fruit:  Fall        Bark:  Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • exfoliating bark with strips of gray, orange, and reddish-brown, and the surface beneath is smooth
  • dark green elliptical to obovate leaves
  • fall foliage are shades of yellow, red, and purple
  • white Camellia-like flowers with gold stamens in the center
  • green to brownish fruit capsules

Insects, Diseases, and Other Problems:  The Japanese Stewartia has no serious insect or disease problems.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Ballet'
    spreading habit and large 4 inch in diameter flowers
  • 'Cascade'
    semi-weeping habit, drooping branches, red-purple fall foliage
  • 'Harold Hillier'
    excellent fall color
  • 'Julia'
    large white flower
  • 'Milk and Honey'
    profusely flowering and bright bark color, orange red fall foliage
  • 'Mint Frills'
    pale greenish flower
  • 'Pilar Bella'
    columnar habit and large flowers
  • 'Pink Form'
    whitish-pink flowers and pink buds, rare
'Ballet', 'Cascade', 'Harold Hillier', 'Julia', 'Milk and Honey', 'Mint Frills', 'Pilar Bella', 'Pink Form'
Tags:
#cultivars#deciduous#specimen#white flowers#slow growing#pyramidal#winter interest#fall interest#cottage garden#understory tree#flowering tree#street tree#multistemmed#green fruits#border planting#pollinator plant#multitrunked#exfoliating bark#bee friendly#drought intolerant#peeling bark#wind intolerant#woodland#oval
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Ballet'
    spreading habit and large 4 inch in diameter flowers
  • 'Cascade'
    semi-weeping habit, drooping branches, red-purple fall foliage
  • 'Harold Hillier'
    excellent fall color
  • 'Julia'
    large white flower
  • 'Milk and Honey'
    profusely flowering and bright bark color, orange red fall foliage
  • 'Mint Frills'
    pale greenish flower
  • 'Pilar Bella'
    columnar habit and large flowers
  • 'Pink Form'
    whitish-pink flowers and pink buds, rare
'Ballet', 'Cascade', 'Harold Hillier', 'Julia', 'Milk and Honey', 'Mint Frills', 'Pilar Bella', 'Pink Form'
Tags:
#cultivars#deciduous#specimen#white flowers#slow growing#pyramidal#winter interest#fall interest#cottage garden#understory tree#flowering tree#street tree#multistemmed#green fruits#border planting#pollinator plant#multitrunked#exfoliating bark#bee friendly#drought intolerant#peeling bark#wind intolerant#woodland#oval
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Stewartia
    Species:
    pseudocamellia
    Family:
    Theaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South Korea and Japan
    Distribution:
    Native: Korea and Japan; Distribution: Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, and the United States
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers attract bees.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 12 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 8 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Ascending
    Dense
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Multi-trunked
    Open
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    High
    Medium
    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:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is an oval, green or brownish, and hard capsule. It measures approximately 1 inch by 0.5 inches.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The solitary blooms are 2.5 inches in diameter, white cup-shaped flowers with five petals and yellow stamens in the center. They blossom in June through August.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are 2 to 4.5 inches long and 1-2 inches wide. They are dark green, alternate, simple, and have a brilliant fall color of yellow, red, and purple. The upper surface of the leaf is smooth, and the undersides have tufts of hair. The margins are serrate.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Shredding
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    The bark is multicolored and exfoliating with strips of gray, orange, and reddish-brown. It is smooth beneath.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Description:
    The branches are grayish-brown. The twigs zig-zag when they are young. The reddish stem buds are flattened and silky.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Patio
    Walkways
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Understory Tree