Camellia japonica

Camellia . This is the only one of 80 species of Camellia grown as a house plant. It is native to Japan, Korea and China. This evergreen shrub or small tree is lovely even when not in flower. The leaves are ovate, leathery and very glossy with cren ately-dentate margins. The large flowers – up to 12 cm (4 ¾ in) across – are usually solitary and sessile. The calyx is composed of five leathery sepals and the corolla of five to seven petals. There are a great many stamens. It is interesting to note that in the wild the flowers are pollinated by birds.

Cultivation is not difficult. The plant requires plenty of light and does best in the window in a cool room. However, it must be sheltered from direct sun and draughts and should be kept in the same position and not moved around. A suitable growing medium is a mixture of nourishing compost, peat and sand. The container must be provided with good drainage. In summer, it does well if moved to a partially shaded place in the garden. Water liberally in summer. In winter, maintain a temperature of 5°-10°C (41°-59°F); if the temperature rises above 15°C (59° F), the buds may fall prematurely. Water in winter according to the temperature – the lower the temperature, the less water the plant requires. It does not tolerate lime. Feed with organic fertilizer in April and May, and again in August. A compound fertilizer may also be used. Propagate by tip cuttings in a propagator at a soil temperature of 25° C (77° F) and at an ambient temperature of 20°-22° C (68°-72°F).

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