Scientific Name: Camellia spp.
Common Names: camellia
Plant Type: Perennial shrub to small tree
Environment: Full sun to part shade. Moist, well-drained, organically-rich soil preferred. Commercially available species and hybrids can withstand freezing temperatures.
Bloom: Flowers can vary largely by species or cultivar, typically from white to pink or deep red. Many forms exist, from simple, single-petaled varieties to double-petaled, "rose," "peony," "anemone," and formal-petaled forms. Bloom period can range from November through April. Most camellias are not fragrant.
Uses: Mostly used as specimen garden plants. Can be easily pruned to maintain shape. Naturally accent a garden comprised of maples, azaleas, and magnolias. Also make a lovely cut flower from the garden in a season when few other specimens are in bloom.
Camellia spp. can be found:
Beds 7D, 14A, 26E, 41I, 58C, 74
With bold blooms that spread cheer through the darker days of our calendar year, the Garden's collection of Camellia species and cultivars help to carry the cloud forest colors of fall and winter this year into the magnificent magnolias of the next.
In their native Asia, ranging from the Himalayas to Japan and south to Indonesia, the species we cultivate thrive in a temperate monsoon climate with a rainy season corresponding with summer. This fact may shed some light on their bloom period. With elaborate, fairly delicate flowers, it could be that camellias have evolved by adapting to their native, summer-rainy climate by flowering in the period of their year with less rainfall. Though water is critical to all life, it can also be a destructive force. To delicate plant parts, including flowers, falling water can break, tear, and weigh down. It can be "sticky" and fill narrow spaces through capillary action, making it uninviting to impossible for animal pollinators, from birds to bees, to access their nectar and other floral rewards.Without these pollinator visits, the wet flowers will not be fertilized, and the production of fruit and seeds will not occur. Flowers, along with other plant organs, are expensive to produce. They require significant investments in energy and in time – also precious commodities for life. With pollinators available during the winter, camellias and their elaborate flowers may very well stand a better chance of fulfilling their purpose to bear fruit with seeds – the species' next generation – without the onslaught of rain with which to contend.
There are near 300 species of Camellia endemic to Asia. About 20% of these species have been evaluated and IUCN red-listed as requiring significant conservation focus, primarily due to deforestation and habitat loss.
With the help of one of Asia's many botanical gifts, the Garden has flowers on display throughout the calendar year. Walk the Garden this winter to discover other colorful gems from around the world!
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text and Profile by Corey Barnes. Photos by Joanne Taylor and Mona Bourell.