Camellia, flowers at the heart of winter

Camellia winter

Camellia is a resilient winter-blooming shrub. Some types display their most beautiful gems at the heart of winter.

Key Camellia facts

Type – flower shrub

Exposure – full sun, part sun, shade
Soil – light, well-drained

Height: 3-16 feet (1-5 m)     –      Foliage: evergreen     –      Flowering: fall, winter

The bright color of its leaves marks a stark contrast to the sometimes jaded color of the winter sky.

Planting winter camellia

Winter camellia plantingIt is recommended to plant camellia preferably in fall to ease root development and allow for better blooming the following year.

  • Planting in the spring of plants purchased in containers is perfectly possible but they will require regular watering at the beginning.
  • Species that bloom in fall or winter run no risk in being planted until spring.
  • Favor a location that will protect it from the sun in summer, but, if possible, is sunny in winter.

Winter camellia planting steps

  • Camellia snow bloomingMix one part heather, one part soil mix and one part garden soil
  • Planting hole should be huge: at least 3x the size of the clump
  • Water abundantly
  • Mulch in winter to protect roots

Camellias need regular watering during the first 2 to 3 years if temperatures are high for better root development.

Snow will not damage your winter camellia. Quite the opposite: snow will protect if from hard freezing.

Potted winter-blooming camellia

Do you wish to have flowers in winter on your deck, balcony or terrace? Camellia is ideal: on the one hand, growing in pots suits it well, and on the other, it blooms in winter.

  • Winter camellia potChoose a good-sized pot with drainage holes.
  • Place at the bottom of it a bed of gravel or clay beads to ensure drainage.
  • It is important that water doesn’t stagnate near the roots, this could kill your camellia.
  • Fill the pot with a mix of heath and horticultural or planting soil mix.
  • Watering must be regular in case of high temperatures, but never drenching the soil. The goal is to keep the soil mix moist.

Pruning and caring for winter-blooming camellia

Camellia cold careIts slow growth means that it doesn’t need any pruning and maintenance is reduced.

Nonetheless, if you wish to balance the shape or reduce the size of your camellia, wait for blooming to be over.

Certain camellias are part of a hedge, or are potted, and these must be pruned.

Take note that since this camellia will bloom in winter, you must wait for flowers to fall off before pruning your shrub.

Since camellia loves rather cool soil, you’ll have to water in case of prolonged dry spells or heat waves.

Lastly, thick pine bark mulch is the ideal solution to retain moisture in the ground in summer, protect it from from freezing in winter, and avoid weed growth.

How to choose your winter camellia

Winter camelliaDon’t get confused when purchasing your camellia because blooming seasons can spread over several months.

Indeed, not all will bloom in winter. Check labels to get blooming in the months you want flowers.

To choose your winter camellia well, the main varieties can be grouped depending on their blooming.

  • Very early flowering – from September up to the first frost spells.
  • Early flowering – from November up to Christmas. Example: Camellia sasanqua
  • Mid-season blooming – at the end of winter and depending on the area, February or March.
  • Late Flowering – spring.

Winter camellia varietiesThus, if you want flowers around Christmas, you might plant Japanese Camellia ‘Gloire de Nantes’ or if slightly later, the ‘Duchesse de Caze’.

Note that the ‘Gloire de Nantes’, shown here, can bloom for an uninterrupted 6 months.

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Smart tip about winter camellia

Mulching with maritime pine bark keeps weeds from growing, protects against the cold, and enriches the soil with natural nutrients. It is also excellent for heather plants because it improves soil acidity. If you increase soil acidity around your camellia, flowering will increase in quantity and quality.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0: rjcox
Pixabay: Kang Choi, JacLou DL, japanibackpacker, Kim Jin Soon
Unsplash: By Pils, Eric Muhr