Camellias have about 300 species as well as 3,000 cultivars and hybrids; these plants are in the tea family. The most common Camellias sold are either japonica, sinensis or sasanqua. Most camellias desire shade or at best part-shade with protection from winter winds. They are slow growing and take time to establish but are long-living plants. Any excess chill, sun or even deep shade can reduce flowering.
Camellia sinensis – These camellias have large green leaves, mostly white (but has been known to have hues of pink to solid pink flowers) with 7-8 petals that will bloom heavily in the spring and again in the fall with less flowers. Growing 10-15ft tall and 6-10ft wide. They are much easier to maintain if they are kept at 3-4ft tall and wide. They can be pruned into a tree but are mostly seen as a specimen shrub, hedges, topiaries or espaliers. This camellia is most often used for green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong, pu-erh and other types of tea.
Camellia sasanqua – These camellias are densely branched, with a pyramidal to oval-round, tree-like shape that is evergreen getting 6-10ft tall and wide. They are known for their narrow, shiny, dark green leaves (3” long) with a fuzzy underneath side. Flowers are white, red, pink or mauve with bright yellow stamens. A mild fragrance with 6-8 petals bloom in late winter. Petals fall off after a few days, but the stamens remain. True species flowers are single rowed, but the cultivar varieties come in single, double or semi-double flowers. Following the flowers are small, smooth, green seed capsules. They are a drought tolerant that work well as an accent plant, hedge, or tall foundation plant. It makes a good small tree if it is pruned up.
Camellia japonica – This Camellia is an evergreen shrub that grows 6-12ft tall and wide. Oval leaves (3-4” long) are dark green that are both leathery and glossy with serrated margins. Flower bud will start to form as early as mid-summer; these camellias are early bloomers and will bloom in early spring when nothing else is really blooming. It adds color to a dormant landscape which can help those grey winter days. Blooms range in color from white, all shades of pink and red. The flower size can vary in size, ranging from a 2” diameter up to 5”; depending on the camellia variety, flowering can start in October and finish in mid-March. There are different cultivars that have different types of blooms such as a semi-double, peony, formal double, rose-form double, anemone, single flowers, but cultivars with or flower forms are available. Bloom time will usually last three to four weeks.