Charlie's Guide to Growing Camelias

Our Gardening expert, Charlie Albone, shares his top tips and insights about Camelias. 

As a designer I never really appreciated Camellia’s until I inherited lots of different varieties when I brought my current home.  It didn’t take long before I realized what a great garden plant they are; the leaves are a lovely shape and a deep glossy green colour, they come in just about any size from ground covers up to small trees and they have the most magnificent flowers all through mid winter and early spring.

For success when growing Camellia’s its imperative you enrich the soil with lots of compost as this helps retain moisture and nutrients and never plant a camellia too deep as they can suffer from root rot.  Camellias are very disease resistant; all I do with mine is keep them well watered and fed and in the three years I’ve been living with them I’ve never had to treat for a pest or disease problem.

There are three main types of Camellia’s – Camellia Japonica, Camellia Reticulata and Camellia sasanqua (there are other species and hybrids but these are the main three).  

Camellia reticulata is by far the most underused of the Camellias and I’m not too sure why as it makes a fantastic feature in any garden.  Recognized by its large leaf and enormous flowers this Camellia can be used as a stand-alone feature plant in the garden or like I have it as a loose boundary hedge.  I think the red flowering examples such as ‘Dr Clifford Parks’ and ‘Ted Craig’ give the best impact with the deep reds and greens giving impact with out being too flashy.

Camellia susanqua has the smallest leaf of the Camellias and is probably the most versatile, and the best for a tight hedge.  It has the smallest flower but they are incredibly profuse and literally cover the plant from roots to tips.  I love the white varieties such as the formal  ‘Early Pearly’ and informal ‘Pure Silk’ but the simple ‘Plantation Pink’ is also a great addition to the garden.

Camellia japonica is the in-between sister of the camellias with some of the most interesting flowers such as ‘Brushfield’s Yellow’ with it deeply ruffled primrose yellow blooms and the flamboyant deeply ruffled pink ‘Hawaii’.  This Camellia is probably the best one to go for if you want a tight larger hedge but like all the camellias is slow growing but being patient is well worth the wait.

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