Winter Camellias

Sometimes in winter we all need a pick-me-up, a bright reminder that spring will come again.  Winter camellias provide a long-lasting display of color in the bleakest part of the year.  Unlike the spring camellias, individual flowers don’t hold very long nor brown on the branch; they drop in a shower of petals, and keep opening new flowers over the entire season.  Our native Anna’s Hummingbirds find them a welcome treat too!

Winter camellias in the Pacific Northwest include Camellia sasanqua varieties, Camellia heimalis varieties, and the Camellia x williamsii hybrids.  These are all evergreen shrubs, growing best in partial shade.  They prefer humus-rich acid soils, so fertilize with rhododendron food and mulch well.

Some Winter Camellias to look for:

The October Magic series – a new series of hybrids, featuring an early start with extended bloom (October to January) and compact habit  October Magic Ruby is a nice bright red; October Magic Bride is clear white and slightly larger.

The Ice Angels series – also early and long blooming, but reaching more traditional camellia sizes.  I like Winter’s Joy, a somewhat open bush with lots of bright pink flowers.

Shishigashira – an older variety, noted for very showy pink flowers and a lower dense and spreading habit. Long bloom through the winter.

Yuletide – the most popular winter camellia, consistently in bloom at Christmas in western Oregon.  Very upright habit that shows off the flowers well – dark red with a bright boss of yellow stamens prominent in the center.

Setsugekka – a large, somewhat open shrub with many white flowers starting in October or November and still going in late January.

Buttermint – like other Camellia x williamsii hybrids, a bit late to the party but filling in the gap between the other winter camellias and the later spring blooming Japanese Camellias – late January or early February through the end of March.  Buttermint has the most unusual flower color for a camellia – ivory just verging toward yellow – and a noticeable and pleasant fragrance.

~ Advice from Darren Morgan