Camellia japonica has dark green, lustrous, leathery leaves and its size will vary according to the variety, but it could grow to about 4 x 3 m.
When do they bloom?
The breathtaking flowers appear from early autumn throughout winter and into spring.
Most suitable climate
Camellias prefer cool climates and are suitable for very cold winter gardens. They are frost hardy.
What they need
Location: sun or shade. Morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal. Camellias prefer to grow in the dappled shade of large trees, but deep shade reduces the number of flowers.
Soil: camellias prefer cool, moist, acidic soil (but they are more tolerant to higher pH levels than azaleas). Add acidic or coarse compost to the planting holes and always put down a layer of pine needle mulch. Camellias need soil that drains well, so perform this test before planting: dig a generous planting hole, fill it with water and check it the next morning. If the soil is damp rather than soft mud, you can plant with peace of mind. If you simply must have camellias but your soil is unsuitable, remember that they make good container plants.
Water: camellias are medium to high water consumers, but do not like constantly wet feet.
Fertilizing and pruning: camellias are hungry plants – they need loads of energy to produce their masses of flowers. The secret is a dose of slow-release fertilizer in late spring when blooming ceases, and a thin mulch of well-decomposed compost that continually releases nutrients and keeps the soil cool and relatively damp until you water it again. Camellia roots are quite shallow so the layer of mulch must be thin – rather add more compost when necessary. Foliage that becomes too dense limits the amount of sunlight that reaches the central branches, and this in turn reduces the number of flowers formed. A light prune of the inner branches (once flowering season is over) will solve the problem, and prune away any untidy stems at the same time. Fairly rigorous pruning of sparse plants can help to encourage new growth. Camellia sasanqua hybrids respond particularly well to heavy pruning; this trait can be exploited to make them into attractive hedges.