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CAMELLIA oleifera

Image of Camellia oleifera

Mark A. Miller

Family

Theaceae

Botanical Name

CAMELLIA oleifera

Plant Common Name

Camellia, Tea-oil Camellia

General Description

Long cultivated as a source of cooking and cosmetic oil, this exceptionally cold-hardy camellia is also a valuable ornamental plant. Tea-oil camellia has been cultivated for so long that its precise native range is obscure, though east-central China around the Huai He Valley is a likely location.

This small, erect evergreen tree or large shrub develops slender branches that tend to slightly droop at the tips. The tapered, elliptical leaves are dark green with lighter green undersides. Fragrant white flowers appear in late fall, winter, or early spring. Each bloom has five to seven petals and a central mass of yellow stamens. They ripen to dry capsules that split open in early fall to release spherical reddish brown seeds.

Grow tea-oil camellia in very bright indirect light or light dappled shade. It prospers in organic-rich, moist but well-drained acid soil. Its tolerance to winter chill makes it one of the best camellias for container culture. Its hybrids also exhibit superior cold-hardiness. William L. Ackerman of the United States National Arboretum in Washington, DC, crossed Camellia oleifera with tender camellias to produce a group of beautiful and hardy hybrids.

Camellia tea oil may be extracted from this species as well as C. sinensis and C. japonica. The oil is extracted through cold-pressing the seeds. Tea oil is pale green, softly fragrant and edible. It resembles olive oil and grape seed oil and has excellent storage qualities and low saturated fat. Do not confuse camellia tea-oil with tea-tree oil, which comes from the paperbark tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)and is not edible.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    10 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    6 - 10

  • Sunset Zone

    5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Broadleaf Evergreen

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    8'-25' / 2.4m - 7.6m

  • Width

    6'-20' / 1.8m - 6.1m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Fall, Late Fall, Early Winter, Winter, Late Winter

  • Native To

    China

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Yellow, Ivory

  • Fruit Color

    Brown, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan, Brown, Sienna

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Foundation, Hedges, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No