CAMELLIAS: COLOR THROUGH THE COLD by Sheila Dunning, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

camellia flowerCamellias can serve several functions in the landscape: as foundation plantings, screens, accent plants, background groupings and hedges.

Northwest Florida’s growing conditions are well suited for many camellia varieties, but maximum benefit can be achieved by mass plantings or groupings. Single plants should be a focal point in beds rather than randomly placed throughout the lawn.

BLOOMING SEASON

Camellias flower in the fall and winter, when their display of colorful blooms is most appreciated. During the rest of the year, their evergreen foliage, interesting shapes and textures, and relatively slow growth make camellias excellent landscape plants.

Some camellia growers enjoy competing in flower shows and manipulate the flower buds to achieve larger and earlier flowers. This involves removing competing flower buds and apply gibberellic acid a plant hormone).

Individual cultivars can be selected for size and form ranging from small and irregular to large and upright. Texture and foliage color also differ among the various species and multiple varieties. Mid-season flowering varieties that bloom from November through January are best suited for Florida conditions.

BULL-NOSING

Warm fall temperatures may prevent early varieties from flowering properly. Late-blooming selections may attempt to send out new leaves before the end of the flowering period, which results in “bullnoses.”

Bull-nosing is characterized by poor quality flowers that do not open fully, and may even drop while still tight buds. Extended dry periods while in the bud stage can make the condition more likely. While flowering, camellias need 1 inch of water applied each week. Camellias perform best in partially shaded locations that are enhanced by good drainage and air movement.

Fertile, acidic soils, high in organic matter are preferred. The soil must be well drained because camellias, will not grow in wet areas.

WHERE TO PLANT

Do not plant camellias in areas with a high-water table and/or hard pan. This will result in a shallow root system more susceptible to injury during dry periods.

Camellias should be installed where cold air can move in and out freely, but the area should be protected from strong northwest winds. Plantings under established trees or in areas that have structures to block the wind are usually injured less by cold temperatures. these conditions enable the plants to gradually thaw or warm in the morning before being exposed to direct sunlight. Dense shade may result in sparse foliage and poor flowering. Camellias exposed to full sun may appear yellow-green, but may yield more flowers.

Either situation is stressful to the plants and can lead to pest problems. Tea scale is the most common insect on camellias. Scales generally feed on the underside of leaves and may not be noticed until large populations have developed. Symptoms include very small elongated white and/or brown raised “flakes” on the underside of leaves that turn yellowish in color.

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