Camellia sasanqua
Common Name: camellia
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Theaceae
Native Range: Japan
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: September to December
Bloom Description: White to pale pink
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-9 where this evergreen shrub is typically grown in acidic, organically rich, moderately but evenly moist, well-drained soils in part shade. Plants typically thrive in the sun-dappled part shade conditions often found under the protection of tree canopies. Plants are tolerant of full sun as long as soils are not allowed to dry out, but generally appreciate protection from hot sun and drying winds. Application of a root mulch (leaves or shredded bark) is advisable. Prune as needed to control size and shape after flowering.

This plant is not reliably winter hardy to the St. Louis area (USDA Zone 6a), but will usually survive winters therein in years where temperatures do not dip below zero degrees F. In the alternative, this plant may be grown in tubs or containers that are overwintered indoors in a greenhouse or in the bright cool conditions of a sunroom with slightly reduced watering.

Most sasanqua camellias are commercially sold in pots or tubs. When transplanting them into the garden, it is important to plant them with the soil level in the container even with the soil level of the ground.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Camellia sasanqua, commonly known as sasanqua camellia, is a densely branched, pyramidal to oval-rounded, tree-like, evergreen shrub that typically grows to 6-10’ tall. It is native to Japan. It is ornamentally noted for its attractive dark green foliage and fall to early winter flowers. Lustrous, narrow-oval to obovate, dark green leaves (to 3” long) are cuneate and hairy on the midrib with rounded marginal teeth and pubescent petioles. Stems (reddish when young) are covered with significant pubescence. White to pale pink, 6-8 petaled, mildly aromatic flowers (2-3” diameter), each having a central mass of bright yellow-anthered stamens, bloom late summer to early winter depending on local climate. Petals fall after several days but stamens remain, with additional flowers continuing to open in succession over a period of 4-6 weeks. Flowers are followed by small rounded fruits. Species flowers are single, but cultivar flowers often come in single, semi-double or double-flowered forms, with flower colors ranging primarily from white to red. Fruit is a smooth and shiny capsule (to 3/4" long).

Genus name honors Georg Joseph Camel (1661-1706), a German Jesuit missionary to the Philippines who was noted for his work on Oriental plants.

Specific epithet comes from the Japanese name sasankua for a popular native species of Camellia.

Problems

Camellias are susceptible to a number of fungal diseases including leaf spots, anthracnose, viruses, black mold, petal blight, canker and root rot. If petal blight occurs (browning that runs from edges to the center), all infected plant parts should be promptly removed. Yellow leaves with green veins may indicate chlorosis which can be treated by adding iron chelates to the soil. Scale can be a troublesome insect pest. Watch for aphids, planthoppers and spider mites.

Garden Uses

Varies in form from upright and densely bushy to spreading and sometimes vinelike. Woodland gardens. Mixed borders. Lawns accents. Around homes. Hedges. Screens. Espaliers. Ground cover. Bonsai.

Container plants can be overwintered indoors in greenhouses or cool but bright sunrooms.