CAMELLIAS IN FLORIDA
by Dewayne Ingram and Robert Black
Florida Cooperative Extension Service Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville John T. Woeste, Dean for Extension
CAMELLIAS IN FLORIDA
BY Dewayne Ingram and Robert Black
Camellias have been a part of the southern landscape for almost
200 years. They are native to the Orient and were introduced into the
U.S. near Charleston, South Carolina in 1786. The common name
camellia refers to varieties and hybrids of Camellia japonica and to the
less known varieties of C. sasanqua and C. reticulata.
The climatic conditions of North Florida are well suited for many
camellia varieties. Camellias are grown less extensively in Central
Florida and even less in South Florida. Special care in regard to ex-
posure, soil modification, and watering is necessary to have successful
growth and flowering of camellias in Central and South Florida.
Camellias can serve several functions in the landscape including
foundation plantings, screens, accent plants, background groupings
and hedges. Maximum benefit can be achieved by mass plantings or
groupings. Single plants scattered throughout the home landscape
create a busy or cluttered feeling.
Camellias flower in the fall and winter when their display of colorful
blooms is most appreciated. During the remainder of the year their
evergreen foliage, interesting shapes and textures, and relatively slow
growth make camellias excellent landscape plants.
SELECTION OF VARIETIES
Thousands of camellia varieties are offered by commercial
nurseries and many are introduced each year from seedlings and
mutations. Varieties with single tiered or double flowers are available
with colors from pure white to brilliant crimson and combinations of
colors in numerous patterns. Types and forms of camellia flowers are
illustrated in Figure 1.
Camellia plants can be selected for size and form ranging from
small and irregular to large and upright. Texture and foliage color also
differ among varieties.
Midseason flowering varieties that bloom from November through
January are best suited for Florida conditions. Warm fall temperatures
may prevent early varieties from flowering properly. Late blooming
selections may reinitiate vegetative growth before the end of the
flowering period which results in "bullnoses". Bullnosing is
characterized by poor quality flowers which do not open fully and
may even drop while still tight buds.
Figure 1. Camellia Flower Types and Forms
Irregular double Tiered or formal
or peony form double
Regular imbricated Semi-double
or formal double
Incomplete double Single
or anemone form
The more common Florida varieties are presented in the following
table. It is impossible to list in this publication all the varieties
adapted to Florida. Comprehensive lists of varieties are available in
other publications, including "Camellia Nomenclature" of the
Southern California Camellia Society.
Camellias perform best in partially shaded locations which are
enhanced by good water drainage and air movement. A location that
meets the basic cultural requirements will enable plants to withstand
Soils. Fertile soils high in organic matter are preferred. However, soil
amendments and proper fertilization can modify many Florida soils
for growing camellias. Camellias prefer slightly acid soils. Soil pH
should ideally range from 5.0 to 5.5, but it need not be adjusted if be-
tween 5.0 and 6.5.
Soil with a high pH can be acidified by adding superfine dusting or
wettable sulfur. Care must be exercised in using sulfur because heavy
applications will cause root injury. Not more than 1 pound of sulfur
per 100 square feet of bed or 12 pound per cubic yard of soil should be
applied at one time. The pH of highly acidic soil can be raised by in-
corporating dolomitic limestone into the soil. The initial pH and the
soil characteristics determine the amount of amendment necessary to
correct the pH.
The soil must be well drained because camellias will not grow in
wet areas. Do not plant camellias in areas having a high water table
and/or hardpan. This will result in a shallow root system which is more
susceptible to injury during dry periods. Areas with a hardpan can be
planted if a lateral tile drain is provided or if the hardpan layer is
Exposure. Camellias should be located in areas where cold air can
move in and out freely, but the area should be protected from cold
winds. Plantings under pine trees or on the north or west side of
buildings are usually injured less by cold temperatures. This is true
because the plants can gradually thaw or warm in the morning before
being exposed to direct sunlight. Dense shade may result in sparse
foliage and poor flowering. Plants exposed to full sun may appear
yellow-green, but may yield more flowers than plants in heavy shade.
Transplanting. The entire planting bed should be prepared if possi-
ble rather than individual holes. An organic amendment (peat moss,
compost, fine pine bark chips) may then be incorporated at a rate not
to exceed one-third of the volume in the top 12-18 inches of soil. A
complete fertilizer, micronutrients, and acidifying materials should be
added as needed during bed preparation.
Certain situations call for individual planting holes. The hole should
be approximately 8 inches deeper and 12-15 inches wider than the root
mass. Organic amendments may be incorporated at a rate not to ex-
ceed one-third of the soil volume. Other amendments should also be
applied as previously mentioned and at a rate determined by a soil
Camellias are best transplanted from November to February so the
roots can become established before the summer heat. Late spring or
summer planting is possible if extra care is provided.
Plants should be spaced according to their mature size and rate of
growth, usually at least five feet apart. The plants should be set into
the soil at the same depth as they were in the nursery field or con-
tainer. A 2 to 3 inch mulch will reduce temperature fluctuations and
conserve water in the root zone.
Fertilization. Generally an acid-forming complete fertilizer (6-6-6 or
8-8-8) should be added regularly to the camellia planting bed. Due to
heavy leaching of nutrients from sandy soils, frequent and light ap-
plications are recommended. For example, 1 to 1 V2 pounds of 6-6-6 or
8-8-8 or 1V pound of 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 should be applied per 100 square
feet of planting area four times a year. Applications are recom-
mended: (1) before spring growth begins, (2) after the first growth flush,
(3) midsummer, and (4) early winter after the danger of late growth has
passed. Late summer fertilization may cause tender growth which may
be injured by early cold periods. Water the plants before and after fer-
Chlorotic plants are common in soils with high pH. This occurs
because many of the micronutrients like iron, maganese and zinc are
tied up in alkaline soils. Nutrient sprays applied to the foliage, or
micronutrient mixture applied to the soil may correct the problem
temporarily, however, long lasting correction will involve lowering the
Watering. Irrigation may be necessary for optimum plant growth
during extended dry periods. Enough water should be applied every 10
days to 2 weeks during dry periods to wet the soil to a depth of 14 to
18 inches. This watering schedule encourages a deeper root system
than frequent, shallow watering.
Pruning. Camellias should require little pruning if they are properly
used in the landsacpe. Necessary pruning should be done in late
winter or very early spring. Prune by removing undesirable branches to
retain a natural shape and branching habit. Shearing should be
avoided because it will result in a dense layer of foliage that blocks
light from the interior branches. Shearing also destroys the natural
Propagation. Seedage, cuttings and grafting are common methods
of propagating camellias. Seed propagation results in tremendous
seedling variation with a high percentage of undesirable seedlings.
Seed should be collected as soon as they are ripe (July to September)
and placed in flats or pots. Germination can be expected in 2 to 4
months if the seed coat is broken or scarified before sown.
Cuttings are the most popular means of propagating camellias. This
method insures plants that are true to the characteristics of the parent
plant. Cuttings are usually taken in April or May from hardened spring
Grafting is used to propagate varieties that have a weak root
system. Grafting also permits the combination of plants with com-
patable and complimenting characteristics. For example, one plant
has desirable flower color, but the root system is susceptible to root
rot. Another plant has an undersirable flower, but a strong, vigorous
root system. Grafting permits the union of the desired top (scion) with
the desired root system (root stock) to yield a superior plant.
Insects and Arthropods. Scale, spider mites, aphids, thrips and cut-
worms are among the most important pests of camellias. Scale
generally feed on the underside of leaves and may not be noticed until
large populations have developed. The three common scale are tea
scale, Florida red scale, and camellia scale.
Mature scale in large numbers are difficult to control. Frequent in-
spections will prevent population build up and allow control of the
young scale with a recommended insecticide.
Spider mites are tiny pests generally found on the underside of
leaves. The tops of infested leaves soon display a rusty or reddish
speckling of the green surface. Spider mite infestations usually appear
during hot, dry conditions and in areas of the landscape with poor air
circulation and little exposure to rainfall.
Aphids live in colonies and injure camellias by sucking juices from
young leaves. Injured leaves curl and become distorted. Aphids
secrete a sticky substance called honeydew which is an excellent
medium for sooty mold, a black fungus. Early detection is important.
Cutworms live in the mulch and soil beneath the camellias during
the day and attack the new plant growth at night. The application of a
bait in late afternoon will provide control.
Thrips are very small, slender insects that feed on camellia flowers.
Close examination is necessary to find them. Their injury is revealed as
distorted flowers. Specific insecticide recommendationscan be ob-
tained from your local County Extension office.
Diseases. Diseases common to camellias in Florida include dieback,
leaf and bud gall, root rot and leaf spots. Dieback is most common
during the spring months, although it does occur during other periods.
It is characterized by wilt and sudden death of new twigs. Older plant
parts can also be infected but usually die more slowly. The leaves
characteristically remain on the branches for considerable lengths of
time after they die.
The best control of dieback is sanitation. The fungus causing this
problem is inside the stem and is not satisfactorally controlled by
fungicides. Diseased branches should be removed about six inches
below the lowest visible symptoms of disease. Pruning tools must be
sterilized after each cut with an antiseptic like 10% chlorox solution.
Removed branches should be destroyed and the wounds on the plant
greater than 1/ inch in size should be covered with wound paint.
Leaf and bud galls appear as thickened and enlarged leaves or buds
during the cool spring months. One or several leaves on a single shoot
may be affected. Control can be accomplished in the home garden by
simply pinching off and destroying infected leaves. Disease activity
usually stops with the advent of warm weather.
Camellias are occasionally attacked by root rot. The entire plant or
a section of the plant will gradually become weak and die. There is no
control of this disease once the plant has been attacked. Infected
plants should be removed and destroyed. Since the disease is soil
borne, soil treatments are necessary before replanting.
Leaf spots are quite common on Camellias. These spots vary in size
and shape depending upon the species of the fungi causing the pro-
blem. Leaf spots do little damage and usually only attack leaves in-
jured by another means. Attention should be given to improve general
cultural practices if leaf spots appear.
Fungicide recommendations can be obtained from your local Coun-
ty Extension Office.
CAMELLIAS FOR FLORIDA
Alba Plena White Early Medium, formal Bushy Slow Adapted to s.
Betty White blotched Midseason medium to large, Compact Medium Waved petals
Sheffield red & pink semi-double
Betty Light pink, Midseason Medium to large, Compact Medium Sport of Betty
Sheffield deep pink semidouble Sheffield
Betty White w/deep Midseason Medium to large, Compact Medium Sport of Betty
Sheffield pink border semi-double Sheffield
Charlie White w/ Early Very large, semi- Compact Vigorous
Bettes yellow stamens double
Clark Dark red Midseason Large, loose Compact, Vigorous Brilliant flower
Hubbs peony upright
Daikagura Rose pink Early Medium to large, Compact Slow
Debutante Light pink
Early to Medium, full
Upright Vigorous Adapted to s.
CAMELLIAS FOR FLORIDA
Doris Ellis Blush pink Early Medium, formal Upright Vigorous Flower with darker
double pink outer petals &
coral rose center
Ecclefield White Midseason Large to very Compact Vigorous
Elegans Light pink, Early to Large to very Spreading Slow Deep petal
Splender edged white midseason large, anemone serrations
Elegans Rose pink Early to Large to very Spreading Slow Sport of Elegans
Supreme midseason large, anemone
Gigantea Red marbled Midseason Large, semi- Open Vigorous Very large
white double anemone flowers
Kramer's Turkey red Midseason Large to very Compact, Vigorous
Supreme large, full upright
Lady Deep pink Early to Large, semi- Bushy Vigorous Flowers fall
Clare midseason double soon after
Mid to late Large to very
season large; rose to
Same as Matho-
CAMELLIAS FOR FLORIDA
COLOR FLOWER AND FORM FORM RATE
Mathotiana Crimson Mid to late Very large, compact, Vigorous Irregular petals
Supreme season semi-double upright interspersed
Mine-No- Pink, edged Midseason Medium, single Compact Slow Darker pink stripes
Yuki white on sides of petals,
often listed as
Mrs Hooper White Early Medium, peony Bushy Slow Sport of Alba
Pink Shell pink Early to Small, formal Upright Vigorous Older variety
Perfection midseason double
Pirates Dark red Mid to late Large, peony Spreading Medium
Gold season semi-double
Professor Dark red Midseason Medium, full Compact, Vigorous Withstands direct
C. S. Sargent peony upright sun, good
Red Giant Red Midseason Large, loose Upright Medium Adapted to S.
peony Florida, with-
stands direct sun
CAMELLIAS FOR FLORIDA
Rena Swick Bright pink, Midseason Large, semi- Upright Medium Heavy textured
veined darker double petals stand
Rena Swick Bright pink Midseason Large, semi- Upright Medium Variegated
Variegated & white double Rena Swick
Rosea Rose pink Mid to late Large to very Compact Vigorous Sport of
Superba season large, rose to Mathotiana
Tom Cat Light rose Mid to late Large, semi- Open, Medium Fluted petals
pink season double upright
Tom Cat Light rose Mid to late Large, semi- Open, Medium Variegated form
Variegated Pink, blotched season double upright of Tom Cat
Tomorrow Strawberry red Early to mid- Large to very Open, Vigorous Irregular petals
season large, semi-double slightly
Tomorrow Strawberry red, Early to
Variegated blotched white midseason
Large to very Open,
large, semi-double slightly
CAMELLIAS FOR FLORIDA
Victory White Midseason Medium, semi-. Open, Vigorous
White double to upright
Ville de Red blotched Mid to late Medium to large, Upright Slow Subject to dieback
Nantes white season semi-double
Francie L. Rose pink Midseason Very large, Upright Vigorous Irregular, upright,
semi-double waxy petals
Lasca Beauty Soft pink Midseason Very large, Open, Vigorous Heavy textured,
semi-double upright thick petals
Mouchang Salmon pink Midseason Very large, single Upright Vigorous
Valentine Day Salmon Pink Midseason Large to very Upright Vigorous Flower with
large, formal rosebud center
White edged Early
CAMELLIAS FOR FLORIDA
Grandiflora White Early Very large, Compact, Medium
Alba single upright
Jean May Shell pink Early Large, double Compact, Slow
Setsugekka White Early Large, Large Vigorous Good understock
semi-double upright for grafting
Dream Boat Bright pink Midseason Large, formal Open, Medium Flower with in-
w/Lavender double upright curved petals
Julia Hamiter Blush pink Midseason Medium, Compact Medium
to white semi-double
Dr. Dewayne L. Ingram
Extension Ornamental Horticulture
Rural Development Specialist
Dr. Robert J. Black
Extension Urban Horticulturist
This publication was printed at an annual cost of $1,280.90, or
8.5 cents per copy to inform the public about the care and selec-
tion of camellias. 4-15M-80
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