When Do Camellias Bloom Each Season?
If you've planted camellias, then you know there's nothing more exciting than watching their beautiful and prolific blooms. But when do they start blooming in the season, and how long do they bloom? In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss walks through everything you need to know when it comes to camellias and their bloom schedule.
If you are new to the world of camellias, you may be curious about their blooming patterns in addition to what their life cycle looks like. These evergreen shrubs and trees are a mainstay of many southern gardens, as they prefer the warmer climates. Camellias are fairly easy to care for, but can be a bit picky about certain growing conditions.
Since camellias are considered evergreen, this means their thick, glossy, green foliage is present year-round. In fact, this is one of the many reasons that gardeners plant them. They aren’t only loved for their gorgeous blooms, but the fact they stay green year round in most climates.
So what about their beautiful blooms? When is it they bloom, and how long will they bloom for? Read on and find out when camellias bloom, and how long you can expect those beautiful flowers to stick around your garden this season.
The Short Answer
Camellias are one of the very few families of flowering evergreen shrubs and trees that bloom predominantly in the Winter months. The two main species common outside of their native Asia are C. Sasanqua and C. Japonica. Sasanqua tends to bloom earlier in the year, with some beginning their blooming season as early as October and lasting into Mid-Winter, while Japonica tends to bloom later in the season, beginning in early winter, with some lasting through late Spring.
The Long Answer
Camellias are evergreen plants that most often bloom in the wintertime. They are among only a small number of evergreen plants that flower, and an even smaller number that bloom in winter, making them a desirable landscape element year-round. Their dark green, waxy foliage is a wonderful backdrop for other flowering plants during the Spring and Summer months.
They are slow to moderate growers, some varieties of which can grow quite large, and most of which flower quite prolifically once mature. Maturity takes about 4 years on average, but flowers can happen earlier than this.
Camellias bloom in a variety of colors, from snow white, through pink, yellow and red, all the way to a deep red bloom with black veining. They also come in a variety of 6 different petal forms, each with several variations across different varieties.
Grouped together, they make a beautiful privacy hedge with their dark, dense foliage, and bountiful blooms in the cooler months. They are stunning enough to stand alone in a garden landscape as well.
The best time to plant Camellia plants, if you live in a warmer climate, is in the Fall. If you live in a cooler climate where the ground freezes, wait until the ground thaws. They like a slightly acidic (5.5-6.5) and well-drained soil environment.
They prefer to be in partial shade. It’s best to avoid planting them where they will be exposed to the hot afternoon sun. However, some varieties of C. Sasanqua can tolerate full sun. However, most will bloom their best with bright filtered sunlight. They do very well in landscapes with tall, wide-reaching trees. A camellia will never complain about being planted beneath a live oak canopy.
Camellias are a stunning family of flowering plants that hail from Eastern and Southern Asia. Known by the scientific name Theaceae, this family includes the C. Sinensis species, from which we derive matcha or green tea powder.
If you are very ambitious and plan to extract oils from your camellias, I applaud your dedication to the craft of practical gardening. If, however, you simply love to enjoy fresh flowers in the Winter months, no one could fault you for cultivating these beautiful cold weather bloomers just for the love of flowers.
Most species of camellia thrive best in zones 7-10. The most cultivated species of camellia outside of their native Asia are C. japonica and C. sasanqua. Sasanqua likes a bit more sun, doesn’t typically grow past 12’ and has a shrubbier, and hardier constitution, while Japonica likes more shade and grows taller, so they are easy to prune and shape into trees.
Both species are beautiful and have their place in many of the most notable gardens in the Southern United States. Sasanquas tend to bloom earlier in the year, with some varieties starting their season as early as October and ending in mid-winter. Most varieties of Japonica begin their blooming season in early to mid-winter, and some bloom well into the Spring months.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. Recently, there have been some hybrids introduced in the United States, from Korea and Northern Japan, which can live in zone 6. There is also one species. C. chrysantha, which has beautiful golden yellow flowers, and only thrives outdoors in zones 11-12.
Planting in Containers
It is perfectly possible and reasonable to try cultivating them in containers. Most species only need to be brought in out of the cold when the temperature drops below 20° for a prolonged period. Having a beautiful blooming plant indoors during the winter poses very little problem for most gardeners.
Camellias are non-toxic to people and animals, so they are safe to have indoors even with pets and small children. They will need to be repotted every two to three years and need good acidic soil and a pot that has good drainage. If well taken care of and kept in a shady spot, camellias in containers will live a long life and see their fair share of blooms.
Blooming Impacts of Soil & Water
Soil is one of the main factors in determining how many blooms your camellia will give you each season. If your camellias aren’t blooming, this is one of the first things you should examine because soil pH can be a fairly easy problem to fix. They do best in slightly acidic (5.5-6.5) soil. If you are potting a plant, this is not difficult to accomplish.
Mother nature doesn’t always see our landscape design plan the way we do, so if you find that you need to lower the pH of your soil, there are several effective ways to do this. Pine straw or pine bark mulch is a great natural method, as is a thick layer of compost.
The other factor that is important where soil is concerned is drainage. While camellias like to be watered regularly, they need adequate drainage, or they will suffer from root rot. This will contribute to an overall unhealthy plant, which means droopy, discolored leaves and fewer flowers.
If your camellia is planted properly, there are very few things that will keep it from growing and blooming. In times of drought, remember to water them regularly. Once established and mature, they will generally thrive on rainwater in places where it rains on a regular basis.
Camellias are stunning and versatile evergreen plants that bloom from late Fall through early Spring. Their slow growth pattern and long-life spans make them a joy to cultivate for generations. It has been said that a well-loved camellia will outlive the gardener who planted it. What a delightful inheritance for a gardener to pass along!
Camellias are hardy, low maintenance and stunningly beautiful during the months when most of the garden is dormant. They offer practical use as a privacy hedge, as well as aesthetic beauty with their bountiful winter blooms. In addition to their beauty outside the home, they make wonderful cut flowers, as well. Camellias are a winter wonder, and a beautiful plant year-round.