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Camellia oleifera “Snow” – image (c) Cheryl Shanahan

If there’s a type of shrub that I love nearly as much as my beloved hydrangeas, it would be the camellia.

I love camellias for a couple main reasons:

1. The foliage is evergreen. I want my plants to do something for me. All the time. The camellia delivers.

2. There are many splendid varieties that bloom in late fall, winter and early spring when there aren’t a lot of other blooms in the flower beds. Japonicas bloom from November to June, depending on the specimen. Sasanquas bloom in fall and winter. The oleifera shown above is just starting to show its seasonal flair.

They also make a really great screening plant. My oleiferas will (eventually) grow to be 15 feet tall or so. I have a row of them planted in front of a privacy fence, and I’m dreaming of the (still somewhat faraway) day when there will be a lovely green screen carpeted with white blooms.

What camellias like:

  • rich, well-drained soil
  • to be sheltered from strong winds
  • moderate water. Established ones (3 years or older) can get by on natural rainfall (well – at least mine are proof of that!)
  • to be pruned after flowering
  • to have their branches somewhat “airy”. Cut out any branches that overlap and rub on each other. Cut lower branches to force vertical growth.