Camellias for Fall Flowers

    • King Alfred daffodils, those big, showy, golden, trumpet-flowered daffodils, can be planted now from bulbs for glorious spring flowers.
    • Transplant shrubs that need to be moved this month. It’s also a good time to transplant natives.
    • Broadcast wildflower seeds and annual ryegrass on hillsides to stop erosion and give you lots of flowers next spring.
    • Compost falling leaves to make excellent garden mulch by next season.
    • Cut asparagus down to about two inches above the ground once all of the foliage has died. Mulch asparagus beds with three inches of well-rotted manure.

Camellias for Fall Flowers

Camellias are well-known for their large, perfect-looking flowers that bloom in the springtime. These are Camellia japonica and are indeed magnificent shrubs. But they have a lesser known cousin, Camellia sasanqua which is a fine shrub with stunning fall and winter color displays. They vary from tall, bushy shrubs to low, spreading ones making a wonderful hedge plant, a superior container plant, or even an effective ground cover.

The flowers are smaller and less showy than the common camellia, but they make up for it with a profusion of bloom. By planting both types of camellias, you get a very long season of bloom, extending from November through May.

Camellia sasanquas are generally rather open and informal. Some varieties have a loose, open habit and pliable stems with a graceful form. They can easily be espaliered on a fence or trellis for a dramatic effect. Many varieties grow only 2-5 feet tall and wide, while others, like the December-blooming ‘Yuletide,’ are quite compact and upright.

The flowers of sasanquas are about 2-3 inches across and may be single, semidouble, or double, usually with a central burst of bright yellow stamens. They cover themselves with blossoms that just keep coming for weeks. Their delicate rounded and often frilled petals range from pale shell pink, rich rose, and vibrant white, to fiery red. Individual flowers last but a short time, but as they fall they are replaced by many more. Many have sweetly-scented flowers as a bonus. They stand out through the winter against glossy, dark green foliage.

Camellia sasanqua can be planted in sun or shade, but avoid intense heat and reflected light. It makes a fine container plant, and some varieties can be used as ground cover shrubs.

All camellias need careful planting. Most failures occur from planting too deep. Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and 1 inch shallower. Mix in one part compost to every 3 parts of native soil, and fill in around the root ball. After planting, the root ball will stick up 1 inch. Fill in around the sides of the root ball with the soil mixture, making a watering basin, but do not put soil on top of the root ball. Add mulch to cover the root ball and surrounding soil. This method insures that the plant will have good drainage, and the roots will be able to breathe.

Their cultural needs are similar to rhododendrons and azaleas as they prefer a rich organic and acidic soil and filtered shade. But Camellia sasanquas will also will take considerable sun if kept moist through the summer.

Look for beautiful, fall-blooming camellias now. They make a nice addition to the winter landscape.

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