Camellia species are native to the mountain regions of Asia. According to Clemson University Extension, some camellias near the emperor's palace in Japan are more than 500 years old. Japanese camellias (Camellia japonica) are common in the southern United States winter landscape. Grow camellias for their showy flowers, which bloom from winter to spring in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 10.
Japanese camellias are evergreen shrubs or small trees with a pyramidal to upright, oval growth shape that reach 45 feet tall, but are commonly seen in the 6- to 15-foot range. Its leaves are glossy green and alternately or spirally arranged on smooth, brown stems. Camellia leaf shape is broadly elliptic, up to 4 inches long. Camellia flower color and form vary widely depending on the cultivar, ranging from white to pink and red. Flower petal number varies from five to 18, with many stamens. Camellia flowers bloom up to 5 inches across in solitary and clustered forms.
Grow Japanese camellias in partial shade in nutrient-rich, well-drained, acidic soils. Once established, camellias are drought-tolerant shrubs. Shelter camellias from harsh sun and wind. Use light applications of acidic plant fertilizer, following label instructions, when camellias bloom. Conserve moisture by using a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch. Propagate camellias by stem cuttings.
Plant camellias as specimen shrubs in the landscape, in shrub borders and as privacy screens. Mature specimens with roots protected by large trees tolerate more sun than newly planted camellias. Camellia's showy flowers are its main ornamental feature.
More than 2,000 named cultivars are categorized into seven groups according to flowering and growth habit: single, semi-double, anemone form, peony form, rose form double, formal double and higo japonicas. Adolphe Audusson has large, red blooms. Desire is a pale pink blooming camellia. Lady Clare is a dark pink camellia with above average cold hardiness. Mathotiana has large, crimson-colored flowers.
Japanese camellias have no serious problems, but the most serious diseases include camellia dieback, canker, camellia flower blight and root rot. Scale is a pest of camellia that can be controlled with horticultural oils. Prevent or minimize most camellia problems by following proper cultural recommendations, according to Clemson University Extension.