In the quiet space after the excitement of fall fruits and foliage and just before the first blooms of roses, winter-into-spring blooming Japanese camellias fill the garden with fresh color and a bit of over-the-top storybook romance.
Camellia japonicablooms from late December through March depending on the variety. Right now, in early fall is a perfect time in to plant them when the young fat buds and early blooms show the flower’s color, shape, and form.
No garden with well-draining soil and a bit of shade (morning sun and dappled afternoon shade are ideal conditions) should be without these remarkable flowering shrubs. Did we mention they’re a perfect fit for containers? And that the flowers are an excellent high-protein food for early pollinators? More? How about a fragrant one! Here are just a few to get you started. Visit your local garden center to see even more options.Find yours here.
(Note:C. japonica’scousins, the sasanquas bloom much earlier from September to December, again depending on the variety. Here are a few ofourC. sasanquafavorites.)
Deep red buds open to magnificent peony-like, rosy-red flowers with a delightful fragrance. An old mid-season favorite. Full shade to filtered sun. Up to 8′ tall and wide; larger with age.
Fun Fact: Why are there so few fragrant C. japonica? Winter bloomers, they face little competition from other blooming plants that might to draw away pollinators. So, if scent is on your winter garden wish list, enjoy this one.
For Colder Zones (6 and up)
Note: While most camellias prefer to be grown in zones 8 and above, a few have been bred to thrive in colder places. Consult with your local garden center about the best time to plant these, as depending on your particular situation, spring may be preferable to fall.
Light-pink, peony-style blooms are a delightful contrast to the glossy, dark green leaves. Full shade to filtered sun. Up to 8′ tall and wide; larger with age.
Use: Perfect for north side of house.
As the garden begins to shake off the worst of winter, the next round of camellias start to open adding a luxe layer to the other earlier bloomers like flowering fruit trees and flowering shrubs such as Pieris and Daphne.
Spectacular, anemone-form, rose-pink blooms. Filtered sun. Up to 8′ tall and wide; larger with age.
Use: Just lovely in a cottage setting.
Just as the roses, magnolias, and many flowering shrubs are coming on, late blooming camellias, not to be outdone, wrap up their season with a final spectacular display. As the flowers subside you begin to once again appreciate the role of these elegant evergreen shrubs in the garden.
An heirloom camellia loved for generations due to it’s perfectly-formed deep-red flowers and useful upright form. Filtered sun. Up to 8′ tall and wide; larger with age.
Use: Statuesque specimen or small tree.
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If you need specific advice for a tricky spot, please leave a comment below. For even more choices, please consult with your local garden center (find one here).