CAMELLIA japonica 'Atomic Red'
Plant Common Name
Atomic Red Camellia, Camellia, Japanese Camillia
Plump, round, bright red flowerbuds followed by brilliant red flowers are the hallmarks of 'Atomic Red' camellia. The medium-sized, semi-double flowers are prolific and open to show a flush of golden stamens. Spent flowers fall to the ground creating floral litter on lawns or pavement. This broadleaf evergreen shrub develops slowly, developing an open, upright habit when mature. Its leaves are a bit narrower than those of most other Japanese camellias, too. Hugh Shackelford of Albany, Georgia selected this chance seedling in the mid-20th century.
Treasured in eastern Asia for centuries, camellias were brought to the western world by Jesuit missionary and botanist Georg Joseph Kamel, for whom they are named. Their attractive smooth gray branches hold oval, glossy, toothed, dark green leaves. From late winter to early spring, this cultivar bears large, waxy flowers which are excellent for cutting.
Common camellia grows best in partial sun to partial shade but will tolerate full sun once established, though sunscald may be a problem. The soil must be evenly moist, acid and well-drained. This plant is notoriously slow-growing, slow to establish and shallow rooted. A thick layer of organic mulch will protect the roots and facilitate better growth. Regular irrigation and applications of fertilizer promote good growth and flowering, though plants will tolerate periods of drought.
The evergreen leaves and tender flower buds may suffer from sunscald and wind desiccation in winter, so avoid planting camellia in windy, exposed areas. If needed, prune branch tips immediately after flowering, just before new growth starts in the spring. Selective, infrequent light pruning and shaping is recommended but shearing is not. This camellia does not recover well from harsh pruning practices. In the landscape, it may be used in hedges, shady foundation beds, mixed borders or as a woodland specimen plant.