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Sasanqua Camellias

CamelliaAttractive fall and winter flowers, bright glossy green leaves and interesting growing habits, combine to make the winter flowering sasanqua camellias ‘a must’ for the northwest winter garden.

In our garden we have used the sasanqua camellias in containers and in shrub and tree beds with equal success. We like to plant them near the entry area where the winter flowers can be enjoyed to the maximum. My wife really enjoys using the cut blossoms and a bit of the foliage in winter flower arrangements. However, the plants are also nice to use on the patio; deck or near walkways or wherever the plants will be noticed and thoroughly enjoyed.

Currently we have the variety 'Yuletide' in a container by the front door. This is one of my favorites, as it has an upright growth habit with lots of single red (medium sized) flowers, that have attractive bright yellow stamens. It reaches its peak of beauty during the holiday season or shortly thereafter.

Needless to say, there are countless other varieties of sasanqua camellias. Some with single, semi-double, or fully double flowers, that are small, medium or rather large and they range in shades of pink, rose, red and white. This is one plant that I would suggest that you choose when it is in flower, because there is such a wide range of flower colors, sizes and various growing habits.

One of the outstanding characteristics of the sasanqua camellia's is that it will tolerate more sun exposure than the spring flowering types of camellias. Plus, most varieties do not grow nearly as large as their spring cousins. Many of the varieties have rather bushy , low growing forms, while others tend to be rather upright. So before purchasing any variety be sure to check the growing habit so you know it will fit the desired planting location.

These plants tend to be hardier than the spring flowering varieties and will tolerate more sunlight. However, the ideal planting location is still shade to part sun and shade.

Like all camellias the sasanqua type need to be planted in a spot where there is good drainage. At planting time prepare a large planting hole, about twice as large as the size of the root ball of the plant you are planting. Mix generous amounts of peat moss, compost or processed manure with the existing soil. When placing the plant into the new planting hole be sure it is set so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. If the plant is set too deeply into the soil it will grow, but will not flower properly, if at all. Keep that in mind, if you have a plant in the garden that is not flowering, take a good look at the planting depth, as that may be the reason it is not blooming.

Camellia's in general are not very heavy feeders. However, if yellow leaves develop, the plants will benefit from feeding in the late winter or early spring, with a rhododendron type fertilizer. Spread the fertilizer, on the soil, at the drip-line of the plant. Never spread it up under the plant, as it is apt to burn the young tender surface roots. Then be sure to water-in thoroughly after application.

Pruning is seldom required, because most varieties have a natural uniform growth habit. However, should any kind of pruning be needed, the best time to prune them is when they are in bloom, or shortly after flowering in February, March or early April.

Root weevils will occasionally infest camellia plantings. Their presence can be noted by the way in which they chew along the edge of the leaves. These weevils can be controlled by making a 4 inch band of masking tape around the trunk of the camellia, next apply a product like Tanglefoot onto the masking tape. Then as the root weevils climb up the trunk (at night) they get stuck in the Tanglefoot.

Local garden outlets carry their finest selection of varieties at this time of the year, while the plants are in bloom. So if you want to add one to your garden this is the time to make your selection. Established plants are best transplanted during the fall and winter months of November to February.

Add a bright spot of color to your winter garden with the showy sasanqua camellia.

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