Few hardy shrubs signal the end of winter better than camellias, the Horticultural Trades Association’s (HTA) ‘Plant of the Moment’ for February, providing some welcome colour through late winter and into early spring.
Highly valued for their stunning floral displays and fresh, glossy, evergreen foliage and with dozens of varieties available, you’ll be spoilt for choice, so pick from camellias in shades of pink, red, white and cream.
Their ultimate size, habit and rate of growth vary immensely too, so consider how much space the camellia will need as it grows. Whether you’d like something that stays small and compact or will grow into a bold shrub or even a flowering hedge or screen, the choice is yours.
Like azaleas and rhododendrons, camellias are ericaceous plants, and this means they need to grow in an acid or lime-free soil to ensure they stay healthy. Alternatively, compact varieties of camellia grow well in large pots or half-barrels filled with ericaceous compost, available in garden centres.
Top three popular camellias for pots or borders are:
- ‘Donation’ – Semi-double rose-pink flowers. Upright habit. Strong growing.
- ‘Adolphe Audusson’ – Bright red flowers. Strong growing.
- ‘Debbie’ – Peony-form pink flower. Upright. Strong growing.
Early flowering camellias can be damaged by frost, so position plants in a sheltered part of your garden. Move pots to sheltered sites during bad weather. Cover bushes with sheets of fleece to protect buds and blooms on frosty nights, removing it once conditions warm-up in the morning.
Choose a range of hardy shrubs, flowering perennials and bulbs to grow in combination with camellias, as well as a selection of ground covering plants that will spread out over the soil beneath bushes. Here are some popular choices:
- Conifers, including yew
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