Camellias for North Florida
Camellias make excellent plants for North Florida landscape designs flowering Autumn through Winter, at a time of year when few other shrubs are at their peak. Camellias the queen of winter flowers that with their variety of forms, evergreen leaves, and low maintenance needs, camellias shine even when they’re not in flower. There are about 2,300 camellia cultivars listed with the American Camellia Society and over an estimated 30,000 varieties worldwide. “There are ten camellia species in total, with the species camellia japonica often referred to as representative of the entire genus,” according to Plantura Magazine. “Originally from the far East, camellias (Camellia) are an absolute eye-catcher in any garden. In the beginning, they were not cultivated as ornamental plants, but for the production of black and green tea and therefore belong to the family of tea plants (Theaceae).”
Besides as winter interest other uses of camellias in landscape design include as hedges, screens, and in large canopied trees understory. Their dark green, leatherly leaves add privacy blocks as many cultivars will grow full and thick. Camellias generally prefer partial shade, sheltered from the hot afternoon sun. The canopies of older plants is ideal for producing shade for them in sunnier locations. “If there was ever a plant that was considered royalty in Southern landscapes, camellias would undoubtedly be it,” according to the Florida Times Union. “They require a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6. They need a well-drained but moist soil, so do not plant them in sites with high water tables and poorly drained soils.”
The two main camellia types we grow in North Florida are Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica. Japonica camellias are generally larger, have larger leaves and flowers, and bloom later in the season from January to March. The sasanquas typically bloom from October to December, and can handle more sun. There are six flowering forms of camellias to choose from including single, semi-double, Anemone form, Peony form, Rose form double, and Formal double.
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