Japonica and sasanqua are two commonly cultivated species of camellia. Native to Asia, these flowering shrubs are traditional additions to landscaping in the southeastern United States, where they thrive in the warm, humid climate. Although both are broad-leafed evergreens in the same plant family, Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua have some noteworthy differences from one another.
Flowers and Leaves
The flowers of Camellia sasanqua measure from about 1 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter. Those of C. japonica grow a bit larger, up to 5 inches in diameter. Flowers of both come in a variety of colors. The leaves of C. japonica also are larger than its cousin, growing up to 4 inches long, while those of C. sasanqua grow to about 1 inch long. The leaves on both are dark green and glossy.
C. japonica grows taller than C. sasanqua. It can reach up to 25 feet tall, but usually is closer to 12 feet with a 6- to 10-foot spread. The smaller camellia variety grows from about 4 to 15 feet, but owners commonly trim them into small trees, even as low as 2 feet tall.
These plants prefer moist soil and they need warm weather. They can be tolerant of cold, but need protection from frost. Certain varieties of C. sasanqua grow well as far north as southern Ohio. The sasanqua generally blooms in autumn and early winter, while the japonica blooms from late winter to early or mid-spring.
Uses and Care
Both C. sasanqua and C. japonica work well in borders, hedges and containers for providing off-season color, notes Floridata. They can provide plant cover in shady areas and in places where you don't want to mow, and they also are attractive as accent pieces on the lawn. Japonica needs plentiful moisture, while sasanqua can handle dry soil. Both do best in partial shade. If you find it necessary to prune a sasanqua, Floridata recommends doing only light pruning to retain the plant's natural shape, and doing so in early spring before buds form. You may prune japonica in spring after flowering. Both sasanqua and japonica benefit from organic mulch.