If you life in the Southeast, camellias are a wonderful addition to the garden. Depending on the type of camellia you plant, these evergreen shrubs will bloom in fall and early spring, adding a formal flair to your garden.

Blooming camellia

The camellia’s deeply colored flowers and glossy, green leaves bring a special beauty to the garden.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

White camellia

This camellia offers a striking contrast of pure white blooms against rich green leaves.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Removing dead Camellia blooms

Removing dead blooms improves the shrub’s appearance and prevents diseases from developing.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Fallen camellia blooms

Stop diseases by practicing good sanitation and raking up those fallen blooms.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

The fall-blooming type is Camellia sasanqua, and the winter-spring blooming species is Camellia japonica. (There are other species, but these are the most well-known and readily available.) The easiest way to tell these two plants apart is by the size of their leaves. Camellia sasanqua leaves tend to be narrower and smaller than the larger and wider ones of Camellia japonica. No matter which species you choose, though, you’ll wind up with a wonderful profusion of single or multipetaled blooms! What’s more, the flowers last a long time and are just breathtakingly beautiful, resembling a peony or a rose. You’ll find them in the white-pink-red ranges.

Be sure to plant camellias in the right spot – in part shade and sheltered from winter winds. These shrubs also like slightly acidic soil. An easy soil test (which you can send to your local Cooperative Extension office) can help you determine if you need to add anything to your soil in order to meet your plant’s needs.

Camellias don’t like a lot of fertilizer. If you do feed them, the best time is in spring with a fertilizer that’s formulated for acid-loving plants. Camellias don’t require heavy pruning either. The best time to lightly shape them or cut them back (if they need to be rejuvenated) is after they bloom.

These plants are susceptible to petal blight and camellia wilt, which are both caused by fungus. Petal blight can be triggered when conditions are rainy and humid and when temperatures are mild when the flowers bloom. When camellias are under stress, they’re more susceptible to diseases like camellia wilt. (Some stressful situations can be caused by transplant shock, drought and poor drainage.)

Both of these fungus problems can be prevented and controlled by practicing good sanitation – like removing spent flowers that hang on the plant and removing the blooms that fall underneath the shrub. If your camellia develops a fungal disease, you may need to treat it with a fungicide. Your garden center or local Cooperative Extension agent can help you identify and treat any developing problems your plant may have.

Even though camellias might need a little extra care than other shrubs, don’t be hesitant to add these gorgeous evergreens to your garden. The endless beauty of camellia blooms mixed in a border or as a single specimen makes this shrub well-worth the effort!