Hardy Camellia Plants: Growing Camellias In Zone 6 Gardens
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By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer
If you have visited southern states of the U.S., you’ve probably noticed the beautiful camellias that grace most gardens. Camellias are especially the pride of Alabama, where they are the official state flower. In the past, camellias could only be grown in U.S. Learn more about these hardy camellia plants below.
Hardy Camellia Plants
Camellias for zone 6 are usually categorized as spring blooming or fall blooming, although in warmer climates of the Deep South they may bloom all throughout the winter months. Cold winter temperatures in zone 6 will usually nip the flower buds, giving zone 6 camellia plants a shorter bloom time than warm climate camellias.
In zone 6, the most popular hardy camellia plants are the Winter Series created by Dr. Ackerman and the April Series created by Dr. Parks. Below are lists of spring blooming and fall blooming camellias for zone 6:
Spring Blooming Camellias
- April Tryst – red flowers
- April Snow – white flowers
- April Rose – red to pink flowers
- April Remembered – cream to pink flowers
- April Dawn – pink to white flowers
- April Blush – pink flowers
- Betty Sette – pink flowers
- Fire ‘n Ice – red flowers
- Ice Follies – pink flowers
- Spring Icicle – pink flowers
- Pink Icicle – pink flowers
- Korean Fire – pink flowers
Fall Blooming Camellias
- Winter’s Waterlily – white flowers
- Winter’s Star – red to purple flowers
- Winter’s Rose – pink flowers
- Winter’s Peony – pink flowers
- Winter’s Interlude – pink to purple flowers
- Winter’s Hope – white flowers
- Winter’s Fire – red to pink flowers
- Winter’s Dream – pink flowers
- Winter’s Charm – lavender to pink flowers
- Winter’s Beauty – pink flowers
- Polar Ice – white flowers
- Snow Flurry – white flowers
- Survivor – white flowers
- Mason Farm – white flowers
Growing Camellias in Zone 6 Gardens
Most of the above listed camellias are labeled as hardy in zone 6b, which is the slightly warmer parts of zone 6. This labeling has come from years of trials and testing of their winter survival rate.
In zone 6a, the slightly cooler areas of zone 6, it is recommended that these camellias be given some extra winter protection. To protect tender camellias, grow them in an areas where they are protected from cold winter winds and give their roots added insulation of a nice, deep heap of mulch around the root zone.
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Answer #1 · Maple Tree's Answer · Hi Diana-This is a great question. There are so many living in northern locations that would like to enjoy this beautiful plant also. Because of this there has been much development trying to come up with varieties that are more cold hardy. The Ice Angel series of camellias are a cross between Camellia sasanqua and Camellia oleifera and was developed at the National Arboretum in Washington. D. C.. This series of camellias are cold hardy to zone 6a.
As of yet I don't believe there has been any varieties considered to be cold hardy to zone 5. This being said: there are those that are growing some cold hardy varieties in zone 5. The Spring blooming April Series are said to be hardy to 5 degrees below zero. The Winter Series - Winter's Charm, Winter's Beauty, and Winter's Star cultivars developed by William Ackerman at the US National Arboretum are supposedly nice choices that bloom from October through December and have survived temperatures of -12 degrees. Planting location is extremely important for camellias in these colder climates. Planting in a protected area away from freezing winds is a huge factor in the camellia's survival. Planted near the home, shrubs, or any structure built to protect the plant against freezing winds can make the difference whether the plant suvives or not. Besides protection from cold winds proper soil moisture and mulching around the plant will help to insulate against damage from freezing. From what I have found I believe the 'Winter Series' camellias are most likely available in your area and a cultivar that has proven itself to survive well in your zone. Besides the few Winter Series cultivars mentioned above there are others that have been developed giving you more flower size and color choices. Your local nurseries and Cooperative Extension Service may be of great help with information as to varieties that have worked well in your location. Many in cooler locations can also enjoy camellias growing them in pots. The advantage of growing them in pots is the ease in which they can be moved to a more protected location during expected freezing temperatures. Some like myself grow several plants in containers that I can bury in the gardens during times of the year then pull up and move them to more protected location during the winter. As you mentioned many say camellias can be tricky to grow. I have always found them to be tolerant of the little care I give them and they always seem to do well. Like most all plants, if most of their needs are met you shouldn't have any problems growing healthy plants. A few of the articles noted below will help you with information on requirements for growing a healthy camellia.
I noted a few links to interesting articles regarding cold hardy camellias and their cultivars that may be of some help. Just click on the links to go directly to the articles.
Hopefully this has helped with your question.
Be Inspired Blog - California
Posted on: November 01, 2018
When you’re spending time in your garden and deciding how you want to up your planting game, why not consider the beautiful camellia? This attractive wild evergreen shrub originally from China can provide year-round foliage and cool-season flowers. With thousands of different types of camellia, you are sure to find a fantastic addition to your garden.
Planting Camellias to Attract Garden Visitors
Camellias have long bloom seasons and actively bloom during fall and winter, times that are the off-season for many other plants. Camellias are very long-lived, with some living up to 100 years and growing 25 feet long. While deer deem camellias as their least appealing options on the menu, pollinators love them. The Seattle Times explains that Anna Hummingbirds can become seduced by varieties like the Apple Blossom and the Tanya, and butterflies, like the long-tailed skipper butterfly, are attracted to the glossy leaves of the ‘Kanjiro’ camellia. With camellias in your garden, you will always have visitors, whether it be pollinators or your friends.
Why Planting Camellias Holds Special Meaning
While a rose is typically seen as the universal symbol of romance, in Japan, the camellia is highly respected and known as the “Japanese rose.” Planting camellias is also a great way to show China’s representation of the union between two lovers their varying rich colors can also have different meanings.
As FTD by Design explains, camellias’ layered petals represent the woman and the calyx (the green leafy part of the stem that holds the petals together) represents the man’s support. For many flowers, when their petals fall, the calyx remains intact. However, with the camellia, when the petals fall, the calyx joins as well and gives us the metaphorical representation of eternal love and long-lasting devotion.
Planting Camellias for The Oil: Skin Benefits
If you’re into homegrown and homemade products, then making camellia oil may be just for you! Sunny Zhang’s Youtube video on how to make Camellia oil is a simple process that only requires your seeds, an oil press and an hour. Japanese women have been using camellia oil on their hair and skin as the open secret for their beauty routine since the Heian Period (794-1185 A.D.). It is a fast-absorbing moisturizer and that can repair age spots, stretch marks and other skin damage due to its high oleic acid (omega-9) content. This high oleic acid is light and can absorb easily into your skin. Makeup removal and nail softening are also extra perks to its properties.
Health Benefits from Planting Camellias
In addition to the skin benefits, tea seed extracted from the Camellia Sinensis plant is a popular remedy for those with high blood pressure Organic Facts.net reports the vast amount of potassium mineral in camellia is beneficial for blood pressure levels. The monounsaturated fats in the oil positively affect hypertension and lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Since Oolong tea and black tea are products made from the leaves, buds and stems of the Camellia Sinensis plant, these teas are also linked to reducing the risk of hypertension. However, those taking medication for hypertension should be wary of using this oil because they could be putting themselves at risk for low blood pressure levels.
Camellia oil also contains a variety of minerals (like calcium, phosphorous and potassium) that can improve bone mineral density and thereby decrease the oncoming stages of osteoporosis. Symptoms from osteoarthritis such as a decrease of range of motion and ability can also be minimized as well.
Planting Camellias for The First Time
When selecting camellias for the garden, consider looking at their bloom times and where you want to plant them. For example, depending on the region, the camellia sasanqua typically blooms from mid fall to early winter while the Japanese camellias start blooming in the middle to late winter.
If you’re planting camellias for the first time, consider these six pieces of advice we recommend:
- 1. Zone: Most hardy camellias are found in zones 7-10, although some, such as the Monrovia Ice Angels® series, are hardy to zone 6.
- 2. Soil: Camellias need slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5-6.5), so planting in your garden’s first year is not recommended. Alkaline soil can negatively affect the camellia resulting in yellow leaves.
- 3. Light: In general, camellias grow and bloom better in partial shade with shelter from hot afternoon sun. While most camellias need good light to thrive and to form flower buds, shade is important to protect from the hot mid-day sun when it hits the flowers, they can become bleached and their buds may begin to shrivel. As the camellias grow larger, their roots can be shaded by their thick canopy of leaves and will eventually be able to accept more sun. In the winter time, this shade helps reduce cold damage for camellias growing in zones 6 and 7.
Timing is important when planting camellias depending on the zone. In zones 8-10, gardeners should plant either in the fall, winter or spring. Gardeners in zones 6 and 7 can plant in spring time so that the shrubs are able to establish a solid root system before colder weather.
To plant your camellias, dig a hole that is twice as wide as the rootball and just as deep. Then backfill the bottom two to three inches of the hole and pack it down. Remove the plant from the container and place it in the center of the hole. The top of the rootball should be 2-4 inches above grade. Camellias do not grow well when planted too deep and, in fact, are more sensitive than other plants.
- They need air around the neck of the plants, where the stem joins the root system. Many young, newly planted camellias are killed by lack of air here, which causes rotting and the death of vessels carrying water and nutrients up from the soils and sugars down from their manufacture in the leaves.
Make sure to fill in around the plant, gently sloping the soil up the sides of the exposed rootball do not cover the tops of the rootball. Mulch around the plant, with just a thin layer (1 inch) over the top of the rootball. Water at the time of planting.
4. Watering: In their natural environments, camellias receive very little water in winter. As with other broad-leafed shrubs, camellias only need to be watered when newly planted or during times of extreme drought. Developing leaves and shoots need plenty of water and nutrients transported up from the soil or else, rose buds may fall and less blooms may result from the lack of water. Most flower buds form on the current year’s growth from mid-summer.
Established plants (which are more than 3 years old, vigorous and shading their own roots) get by with little supplemental water. If you do water them, make sure the soil is well drained as camellias cannot tolerate soggy wet soil.
5. Fertilizing: Fertilizing your camellias in the spring after the flowers have dropped. Remember to not use too much fertilizer as too much nitrogen can burn the leaves and cause them to drop off apply it at the rate recommended on the label. We recommend the Azalea, Camellia & Gardenia Planting Mix by E.B. Stone Organics. This soil is best for evergreens, ferns, rhododendrons, begonias and other plants that prefer acidic soil. If you choose to make a soil amendment or to try planting in a pot, this soil is for you.
Fertilize again in the midsummer if the growth seems sluggish or foliage looks sparse and begins to lose its deep green color. Do not fertilize after August as the plants will be entering a period of dormancy and won’t be able to give the new growth time to harden.
6. Pruning: Prune after blooming has ended to improve the overall health of the camellia. Remove any dead or weak wood to allow the flowers to open up properly. With age, the lower leaves can turn brown and rot, bringing in the possibility of diseases such as “dieback.”
Allow your camellia to re-concentrate its energy by tidying up the lower branches remove the leaf stalk by about an inch where it attaches to the trunk. Thinning branches can also help make the plant less favorable for insects to hide in and easier to spray. Make sure to wear thick leather gloves and long sleeves while pruning because the leaf stalks are covered with sharp spines.
Planting in Containers
Camellias grow well in containers and are flexible whether you’re planting them outdoors on a terrace or indoors in a cool greenhouse. Remember to make sure the container has adequate drainage holes. Camellias will outgrow their containers every 2 to 3 years and will require repotting.
Whether you decide to start planting in the late fall or early winter, camellias are a great fit for any garden indoors or outdoors. If you’re unsure how you would like to get started on incorporating camellias in your garden, you can talk to our trusted SummerWinds garden experts to learn more!
About SummerWinds Nursery: SummerWinds Garden Centers is a leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds operates retail nurseries in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and in Silicon Valley, California, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the west. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Recommended Varieties and Cultivars
Although there are about 250 different species of camellia, only a few are commonly grown as ornamental shrubs. Here are the most popular:
- Camellia japonica– Japanese camellias are probably the most frequently grown species with over 30,000 existing cultivars! Their flowers come in a huge variety of shapes and colors and usually bloom from mid-winter to spring. Flowers are large: up to 5 inches across.
- Camellia sasanqua– This type of camellia flower is also very popular and blooms in the fall making it a great complement to Japanese varieties. Flowers are mostly single or semi-double, 3-4 inches wide, and often fragrant. They range in color from white to pink to red.
- Hybrid camellia (Camellia x williamsii)– Many great options available for home gardeners are hybrids that combine the best characteristics of other varieties. Plants tend to be more vigorous and have a long blooming period.
Northern gardeners had reason to rejoice when cold hardy camellia varieties were introduced. These hybrids can take temperatures as low as -10°F.
- Cold hardy camellias– For gardeners further north, cold hardy hybrids like the ‘Winter’ or ‘April’ series are the way to go. Flowers are shades of white, pink, and occasionally red and bloom either in fall or spring.
Selecting the right variety for your landscape is just the first step. Next, you get to choose from hundreds of beautiful cultivars!
While you may be limited by what is sold at your local garden center, here are some cultivars to look for:
- ‘Fairy Blush’– Some camellias are fast growing and become small trees, but fairy blush is a compact cultivar that’s excellent for small spaces and containers. Flowers are pale pink, fragrant, and bloom mid to late season.
- ‘Bonomiana’– This is a beautiful, showy Japanese camellia. Flowers are pink and formal double with over 80 layered petals on each bloom. Shrubs grow 6-10 feet tall and bloom mid season.
- ‘Bob Hope’– Another Japanese cultivar, ‘Bob Hope’ has large, deep red, semi-double blooms with ruffled petals. It grows 6-8 feet tall and blooms mid season.
- ‘Mine-No-Yuke’– This is a sasanqua cultivar that blooms profusely with snow-white flowers. It blooms early in the season (fall) and has a graceful, willow-like habit with trailing branches.
White blooming camellias are very romantic and delicate looking. ‘Mine-No-Yuke’ is a popular fall blooming white variety and ‘Polar Ice’ is a great white-blooming option for colder areas.
- ‘ShiShi Gamira’– This is a popular sasanqua cultivar with hot pink blooms that have yellow centers. It has a low-growing, spreading habit (4-5 feet tall by 6-8 feet wide) and a romantic, weeping form.
- ‘Polar Ice’– This is a cold hardy cultivar that blooms profusely in the fall with snow white flowers and golden stamens in the center. Grows 5-6 feet tall.
- ‘April Rose’– Also a cold hardy cultivar, ‘April Rose’ has very unique deep rose-colored flowers that are streaked with white. Blooms are fragrant and rose double form. Plants bloom in the spring and grow 5-8 feet tall.
How to Plant Outside
Select a good planting location for your camellia shrub, they prefer to grow in a partially shaded to full-sun location with well-draining soil.
Prepare a hole for the camellia. Dig the hole one and a half times as deep, and twice as wide as the current pot.
Remove the camellia from the pot and gently spread the roots apart.
Combine the soil from the hole with a generous amount of peat moss or compost.
Set the camellia in the hole and backfill with dirt mixture. Add enough dirt to fill surround the roots, making sure to keep the shrub at about the same soil height as it was planted in the pot. Don’t allow the base of the trunk to go below the soil line.
Apply at least two inches of mulch around the base of the shrub to help keep moisture levels high.
Water the plant thoroughly at planting and regularly through the growing cycle.
Camellias prefer to grow while sheltered from the summer’s heat and hot afternoon sun. Locate plants on the northern side of the house or under the shade of taller trees. Not only will the proper location held shade plants in the hot summer months, but it will shelter the shrub from harsh winter winds.
Increase water levels during the peak blooming season. Help keep moisture levels up by applying several inches of mulch near the base of the plant, but ensure the mulch doesn’t touch the trunk. Keep camellias adequately watered until moist, but not soggy.
Don’t be overly concerned with a lot of bloom drop camellias are known for producing more blooms that they will actually open. Excessive bloom drop may indicate too much water, too little water, or being exposed to sudden freezing temps.
Once your camellia shrub is well established for a few years you may skip supplemental watering. Just ensure that the soil is well-draining.
Camellia petelotii plants come from Southern China and Vietnam, and successfully grow in USDA Zones 8 to 10. This variety of camellia reaches heights between 6 and 10 feet with slightly smaller spreads. Yellow, fragrant flowers bloom from December through March. Emerging leaves have purple tints, but mature to a dark green color. This camellia plant requires acidic, rich soils in partly shady locations. Camellia petelotti shrubs sometimes suffer from anthracnose, canker and petal blight. Spider mites and scales occasionally feed on this plant. The camellia petelotti works well as borders, hedges and backgrounds.
Camellias are evergreen flowering ornamental shrubs. They produce flowers throughout many seasons of the year and grow and bloom best in mild climates. The family of Camellias, also called the genus, contains hundreds of species, or groups of camellias that have certain characteristics that are similar to each other. The most common species in the USA are Camellia japonica, Camellia sasanqua, Camellia hybrids and Camellia sinensis.
No other flowering ornamental offers the wide diversity of bloom colors, patterns, shapes, sizes, flowering seasons and growth habits that the camellia does. For this reason, Camellias are often referred to as The Queen Of Ornamentals.
Where Can Camellias Be Grown?
Camellias are grown best in the milder climate zones of 9, 8 and some parts of 7. There are some camellias with special cold tolerant characteristics that can extend the growing region into 7a and even 6a and b. Likewise, there are camellias that are more tropical in nature and do well in very warm climates such as 9 and 10.
The bloom season for the camellia family typically ranges from Fall to Spring. Every variety is different and has its own unique bloom season. A normal bloom range for a camellia is 4-5 weeks and is dependent on climate and cultural factors and could be shorter or longer than 4-5 weeks.
All camellias should grow in a partial shade/sun environment. This can be under a light shade tree that gets bright light, but not necessarily direct sun exposure. There are some can grow in full sun and even flower better the more sun they get. It is quite difficult to get Camellias to bloom camellias in full heavy dense shade that gets no direct, or indirect light.
To be safe, light colored camellias will appreciate a little shadier spot while many dark colored flowers can take a bit more sun. There are exceptions to this rule, especially with different varieties and species. Camellia sasanqua varieties can all take, and grow better, with more sun – even full sun. There are some japonica camellias that are light colored – like the white flowering camellia japonica ‘Sea Foam’, that can tolerate more sun, while at the same time the white flowering Camellia japonica ‘Mansize” will need more shade.
What Soil Do Camellias Prefer?
Camellias like a well drained, moist soil with organic matter. They will have a hard time in very sandy soil or clay soil that is too compact. Amendments to the soil is recommended to provide them with better drainage. Sandy Soil could be amended with peat moss to add a little water holding capability while really hard, clay type soils could benefit from soil conditioner or perlite to help break up the soil.
An acid soil pH of 5.5-5.8 is ideal for Camellias. Know your soil pH. Improper soil pH can lead to poor growth, nutrient deficiencies, and in some cases, death.
Camellias like to be moist but well drained. They don’t like to dry out. They will require more water in the summer than in the fall and winter months.
Camellias, like people, require a balanced diet. Nutrient deficient camellias will be come unhealthy and and will not perform as they should. Declined growth, underdeveloped or no blooms, leaf dropping, and disease and pest problems are increased with camellias that don’t have proper nutrients.
Don't apply fertilizers just because you have them or think you need them. Applying the wrong kind of fertilizer can damage plants. It is best if you take a soil sample and send it to your county extension service for analysis so you will know exactly how much and what to apply. They will also tell you the pH of the soil and how to correct if if necessary.
One of the best ways to get nutrients back in the soil is by applying an organic mulch. As mulch breaks down, nutrients are added to the soil. But even with mulch, supplements are necessary to give camellias a healthy balanced diet. We recommend using an organic fertilizer like Hollytone. Always remember that a fertilizer plan must be followed without major gaps. Your plants will need consistent nutrients without long periods without any.
Plant Camellias in the fall in zone 8-9 and in the spring in zones 7-6. We recommend raised plantings or planting where the root ball is slightly higher than ground level. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball and amend the soil if necessary. Put your plant in the hole and back fill with soil. Pack in tightly, but don’t put any soil on top of the root ball. You can add a 3-4″ layer of mulch the top of the plant and water in well. Keep soil moist, but make sure it is well drained.
We recommend light pruning to maintain size, remove damaged wood or to regenerate new growth. By choosing the right plant for the right location, you won’t need to prune much. There are some plants that grow fast and some plants that grow slow. For low growing needs, choose a camellia that is slower or lower growing. In other words, choose a plant for a location that won’t require a lot of pruning. Excessive pruning will reduce flower bud set. Also plants that are very dense from pruning will be more prone to disease and insects than a camellia that is growing naturally the way it’s supposed to grow.
If you do prune, make sure your clippers are sharp and clean. Do not use hedgers on Camellias. They tend to rip and tear the branches instead of making clean, sharp cuts. Broken twigs from clippers will cause disease and damage to your camellias.
Pruning should be done after the last blooms and prior to new spring growth. Each stem will have growth buds right at the base where the leaf meets the stem. You want to make any cuts right above this growth bud.