Camellia hybrids

Beautiful blooms offset by glossy, dark green leaves make Camellias and their numerous hybrids popular and rewarding plants to grow.

One of the most commonly grown Camellias is Camellia japonica, and this has been used to produce many hybrids. C. japonica originates from Japan and Korea and has glossy, rounded dark green leaves. It can produce lovely flowers from November to May which vary in colour from white to pink, red and purple. They are 8-13cm across and can be either single, semi-double, anemone-like, peony-like or double. This wide range of flowerheads makes it ideal for producing hybrids.

Varieties

C. x williarnsii ‘Donation’ is a cross of C. japonica and C. saluenensis. It has an upright, almost tree-like habit and produces lovely, showy semi-double, pale pink flowers up to 10cm (4in) across.

The tree-like C.x ‘Donation’ produces pink flowers. Camellia hybrids

Further crossed with C. reticulata, produces C. x ‘Leonard Messel’, a beautiful hybrid which reaches a height of 2.4— 4.6 metres (8-15ft) and produces rich pink flowers

C.x ‘Salutation’ is a hybrid of C. saluenensis and C. reticulata and produces lovely white flowers with just a hint of pink.

Looking after your plant

Camellia hybrids, like their parents, prefer cooler conditions than most house plants. A cool conservatory, sun-room or porch is ideal, although the plants will withstand being brought in for display in the living room for short periods of time.

Even though Camellia hybrids enjoy a cool environment, their flowers are easily spoiled by frost or freezing conditions so plants positioned outdoors on the patio will do best in a sheltered, semi-shaded spot where they do not receive early morning sun. They will not tolerate windy and exposed positions or waterlogging either, so bring patio plants indoors if rain is heavy.

Early flowering hybrids are best grown in 20-30cm (8-12in) pots or small tubs. They should be repotted only if necessary and not more than every three to five years. Young plants may need staking until they are better established.

Pruning is rarely necessary but straggly shoots can be shortened in the spring.

Camellia hybrids can be propagated by either root, shoot or leaf bud cuttings, or by layering.

Plant Problems

White woolly patches on the stems and buds is a mealy bug attack. Treatment: Remove bugs with a toothpick or a cotton bud dipped in dilute methylated spirit. Spray with a suitable insecticide and check the plant every week to ensure that the bugs have gone.

D Buds drop off. This can either be quite normal, as the plant will produce more buds than will flower, or it could be caused by under- or over-watering.

Treatment: If the plant produces few flowers you are probably not watering correctly. Water carefully, ensuring that the compost never dries out, and keep an eye on humidity. Feed with a fertilizer to promote healthy growth.

PLANT CARE

Camellia hybrids are generally easy plants to grow provided their requirements are carefully met.

  • Potting: Move plants into slightly larger pots in spring if necessary. Use an equal-parts mixture of peat, leaf mould and lime-free potting compost. After maximum pot size has been reached, top-dress at the end of the resting period.
  • Water generously during active growth. After flowering has finished, water just enough to prevent the compost drying out. Mist spray frequently and stand on moist pebbles to maintain humidity.
  • Feeding: Feed with a standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the active growth period.

GROWING CONDITIONS

  • Light: Camellia hybrids grow well in bright filtered light throughout the year. A spot with partial shade is ideal.
  • Temperature: A cool conservatory or porch is best for Camellias. Ideal temperatures in winter should be around 7°— 15°C (45°-60°F) and in summer temperatures should not be allowed to rise above 18°C (65°F).

When to buy

  • As there are so many Camellia varieties and hybrids you will usually be able to buy in containers throughout the year.
  • Avoid plants with brown petal edges and any which have suffered bud drop.
  • With proper care Camellias and their hybrids can live for several years.

Extra Info

This is one of those exotic looking plants that are easier to grow than they look. Camellias were introduced into this country in the eighteenth century, but were treated as tender plants, and the Victorians devoted whole greenhouses to their culture. Gradually it was realized that they were hardier than they looked, and many live happily outdoors, especially in a wall environment. All are evergreens, and lime-haters. C. japonica, the common camellia, can grow to 9m (30 ft), although 6m (20 ft) is more usual. It is generally hardy, although it benefits from the protection of a wall, especially in the north. The site should be chosen carefully, since the plant needs some shelter from cold north and east winds, and because it bears its red flowers as early as February, it should be away from the early morning sun or the flowers will be frost-damaged.

A vast number of cultivars are available which, like those of roses, are constantly being added to. They can be red, pink, white or bi-coloured, and single, double, or semi-double and the safest way of buying is to see the camellias in flower, rather than choosing from a catalogue or description. Camellia ‘Leonard Messer is a hybrid with a complex parentage, growing to about 3m (10 ft), hardy on a wall everywhere, with large semi-double flowers in March and April. Camellia x williamsii has a number of named varieties, and has the merit of giving a succession of blooms from February right through the spring. C. reticulata and its named cultivars are less hardy than the others, and should be attempted outdoors only in the south, and against a wall.

General care: Camellias hate lime and thin, light soils. Before planting, the site should be dug over and plenty of compost and decaying vegetation added, with extra nourishment given in the form of mulches after planting. They like cool roots, so a south wall should be avoided. The best aspect is west, or north if the wall is sheltered. Plant in March and give support until the plant is established on the wall. Young plants should be given plenty of water during the summer, and good frost protection in the winter. Keep the soil round the plant well mulched. Camellias do not need any routine pruning, but dead-heading will give a succession of flowers.

Propagation: Take semi-hardwood cuttings in the summer and strike in pots of a 50-50 sand and peat mixture.

Pests and diseases: Birds may eat the flowers and buds. Net in the autumn if this happens. Frost also damages the buds, and leaf discoloration is probably caused by too much lime in the soil. Treat with chelated iron.


 

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