Plant of the Week: Win­ter camel­lias

These plants will pro­vide cheer through­out au­tumn and win­ter

Garden News (UK) - - News -

Camel­lias are among the most aris­to­cratic ever­green shrubs, with lus­trous leaves and bold, wax-tex­tured flow­ers in an as­ton­ish­ing range of shapes and forms. While most flower from Jan­uary through to spring, there are species, hy­brids and va­ri­eties that lighten short­en­ing days with blos­soms through au­tumn into Christ­mas.

Many of these are C. sasan­qua, from China and Ja­pan, while oth­ers come from the fra­grant Chi­nese tea oil C. oleifera or the hy­brids C. hiemalis and C. ver­nalis.

While many are hardy, oth­ers, such as va­ri­eties of C. oleifera, may need more win­ter warmth and shel­ter, par­tic­u­larly in colder gar­dens. They’re all eas­ily grown in pots of er­i­ca­ceous com­post, which can be brought into a glasshouse or con­ser­va­tory over the cold­est months or, if durable, left out­side on the pa­tio all year. Pot cul­ti­va­tion not only pro­vides win­ter pro­tec­tion, it also helps re­strict size and spread, fur­ther re­duced via light prun­ing.

Camel­lias need acid to neu­tral, moist, but well-drained soil. If they be­come chlorotic, or yel­lowleaved, or are in thin, chalky soils of pH7 and above, grow­ing in pots is best. While they’ll with­stand win­ter sun they need to be kept out of strong sun­light in sum­mer. They also need to be kept moist, par­tic­u­larly in sum­mer when flower buds are be­ing set. Use rain­wa­ter wher­ever pos­si­ble and feed with er­i­ca­ceous liq­uid feed in spring. If plants start to out­grow their space lightly trim

back er­rant shoots im­me­di­ately af­ter they fin­ish flow­er­ing.

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