We often hear from customers that the hardest time of year for garden interest are the dark days of late autumn into the early spring. An ideal plant for brightening the season is a hardy Camellia, which include varieties that bloom from October into late April. All Camellias prefer acidic soils, part shade to full shade, and are evergreen.
With some exceptions, most Fall blooming camellias are species and cultivars of C. sasanqua, blooming from November through December or January. Most of the spring Camellias are hybrids or cultivars of C. japonica.
Cultivars come in single and doubled flowers, and range from pure white to bright red, with true reds being rarer in fall bloomers. Camellia x vernalis ‘Yuletide’ is one fall bloomer with a true red that does not disappoint. ‘Yuletide’ certainly lives up to its name, growing 8-10’ with a long bloom season starting in November and ending after the holidays.
Camellia japonica ‘Apple Blossom’ is another of our favorite fall bloomers. It features light pink single flowered blooms starting in mid-autumn and extending into the early spring. It typically grows to 12’ tall, but in an ideal location it may double that size. Another aptly named Camellia, some people report a faint apple blossom like scent on warm days! Hardy to zone 7 (0 to 10F).
Some of the wild Camellia species worth growing in the PNW are C. oleifera, the Tea-oil Camellia, and C. sinensis, the Tea Camellia. Camellia oleifera is hardy to USDA winter hardiness zone 6B (-5 to 0 F) and features single flowered white blooms from late October into December, followed by seed pods which in China are pressed to produce cooking oil. It eventually grows to 20’x20’, but as do all Camellias, C. oleifera responds well to pruning. Camellia sinensis also hails from China, and is the earliest Camellia, blooming from September into November. It grows 7’ tall and wide, has small single flowered blooms, and is hardy to 7A (5 to 10 F). And yes, for those wondering, you can harvest the young leaves and brew your own tea!
This is far from a comprehensive list of garden worthy varieties of fall Camellias, there’s far too many for a short blog, so pay us a visit to see our seasonal selection of wonderful Camellias!