Hardy Camellia Plants: Growing Camellias In Zone 6 Gardens
If you have visited southern states of the U.S., you’ve probably noticed the beautiful camellias that grace most gardens. Camellias are especially the pride of Alabama, where they are the official state flower. In the past, camellias could only be grown in U.S. hardiness zones 7 or higher. However, in recent years, plant breeders Dr. William Ackerman and Dr. Clifford Parks have introduced hardy camellias for zone 6. Learn more about these hardy camellia plants below.
Hardy Camellia Plants
Camellias for zone 6 are usually categorized as spring blooming or fall blooming, although in warmer climates of the Deep South they may bloom all throughout the winter months. Cold winter temperatures in zone 6 will usually nip the flower buds, giving zone 6 camellia plants a shorter bloom time than warm climate camellias.
In zone 6, the most popular hardy camellia plants are the Winter Series created by Dr. Ackerman and the April Series created by Dr. Parks. Below are lists of spring blooming and fall blooming camellias for zone 6:
Spring Blooming Camellias
- April Tryst – red flowers
- April Snow – white flowers
- April Rose – red to pink flowers
- April Remembered – cream to pink flowers
- April Dawn – pink to white flowers
- April Blush – pink flowers
- Betty Sette – pink flowers
- Fire ‘n Ice – red flowers
- Ice Follies – pink flowers
- Spring Icicle – pink flowers
- Pink Icicle – pink flowers
- Korean Fire – pink flowers
Fall Blooming Camellias
- Winter’s Waterlily – white flowers
- Winter’s Star – red to purple flowers
- Winter’s Rose – pink flowers
- Winter’s Peony – pink flowers
- Winter’s Interlude – pink to purple flowers
- Winter’s Hope – white flowers
- Winter’s Fire – red to pink flowers
- Winter’s Dream – pink flowers
- Winter’s Charm – lavender to pink flowers
- Winter’s Beauty – pink flowers
- Polar Ice – white flowers
- Snow Flurry – white flowers
- Survivor – white flowers
- Mason Farm – white flowers
Growing Camellias in Zone 6 Gardens
Most of the above listed camellias are labeled as hardy in zone 6b, which is the slightly warmer parts of zone 6. This labeling has come from years of trials and testing of their winter survival rate.
In zone 6a, the slightly cooler areas of zone 6, it is recommended that these camellias be given some extra winter protection. To protect tender camellias, grow them in an areas where they are protected from cold winter winds and give their roots added insulation of a nice, deep heap of mulch around the root zone.
April Tryst Camellia flowers
April Tryst Camellia flowers
(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)
Height: 8 feet
Spread: 4 feet
Hardiness Zone: 6a
Other Names: Japanese Camellia, Common Camellia
Group/Class: April Series
Lustrous evergreen foliage cover this variety, developed for superior hardiness; masses of fragrant, red double flowers that bloom in April; provide rich, acidic, moist, well-drained soil; protect from winter winds
April Tryst Camellia features showy fragrant red round flowers at the ends of the branches in mid spring. It has dark green foliage. The glossy pointy leaves remain dark green throughout the winter. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.
April Tryst Camellia is a multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.
This is a relatively low maintenance shrub, and should only be pruned after flowering to avoid removing any of the current season’s flowers. It has no significant negative characteristics.
April Tryst Camellia is recommended for the following landscape applications;
- Mass Planting
- General Garden Use
- Container Planting
Planting & Growing
April Tryst Camellia will grow to be about 8 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 4 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 1 foot from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 40 years or more.
This shrub does best in partial shade to shade. It requires an evenly moist well-drained soil for optimal growth, but will die in standing water. It is particular about its soil conditions, with a strong preference for rich, acidic soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in both summer and winter to conserve soil moisture and protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.
April Tryst Camellia makes a fine choice for the outdoor landscape, but it is also well-suited for use in outdoor pots and containers. With its upright habit of growth, it is best suited for use as a ‘thriller’ in the ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container combination; plant it near the center of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those that spill over the edges. Note that when grown in a container, it may not perform exactly as indicated on the tag – this is to be expected. Also note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.
By definition, a microclimate is the climate of a small, specific place within an area as contrasted with the climate of the general area, or the macroclimate. The climate of the general area is indicated by the USDA plant hardiness zone.
Beginning gardeners typically should plant according to the standard USDA zone. However, it is sometimes possible to grow plants from the next-warmest zone if you know how to exploit microclimates. This is experimental and isn’t always successful, but if you play your cards right, you may be able to expand on the standard regional choices in plant selection.
For example, a sunny nook in a yard that is sheltered from harsh winds and frosts is a microclimate: The temperature there will sometimes remain higher than it does elsewhere in your yard. Such microclimates are excellent for experimenting with plants otherwise considered too tender for your region. Let’s say you are gardening in zone 5, and the plant that you would like to grow is supposedly hardy only to zone 6. Try growing it in the microclimate of a sunny, sheltered nook. Such a microclimate can also be a great place in which to harden off plants.
Microclimates can also be colder than the general area. For example, if a piece of land sits down in a low spot (at the foot of hills), cold air may settle there. On nights when you have a frost warning in your area, these are often the spots that get hit worst with the frost. Any tender plants that you have growing there may be damaged by the frost. This is why — much to the dismay of many a new gardener — the plants in one area of a landscape may be killed by the very same frost that other plants (in other areas of the yard) survive just fine. Frost damage can be a very localized phenomenon.
Note that microclimates are about more than just ambient temperature and atmospheric conditions. Technically, an area of your yard that enjoys full sun could be considered a microclimate, as could one where full shade reigns. Likewise, spots in the landscape that have a dry soil are treated differently (in terms of what you would grow there) than spots that have a wet soil.
It is possible to create a microclimate with a strategically placed structure or planting. For example, building a masonry wall around a garden space is an excellent way to make a microclimate. Not only does the wall supply shelter, but it also retains heat during the day and radiates the stored heat at night, keeping the immediate area warmer. Other structures commonly used to create microclimates include outbuildings (such as outdoor storage sheds), solid fences, and hedges.
Camellias: Winter Blooming Shrubs for Southern Gardens (Hardiness Zone to 7b)
(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 12, 2008. Your comments are welcome,but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
During the late 1960s, I had to be at the San Diego Zoo several times week for a class with Albert, the silverback gorilla.
One day after class I decided to explore the rest of Balboa Park. I wound up in an overgrown and neglected Japanese garden. It was the first time I had come face-to-face with hundreds of camellias all blooming at the same time. Later, I learned that the “secret garden” I had stumbled onto was the ruins of the Japanese tea garden designed and built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. When I found the garden, it had been left to its own devices. Blooming plants were sprawling and climbing up the remains of ancient crumbling masonry walls, all in camellia colors: white, red, pink.
When I moved to Greensboro, Alabama I learned of more untended ancient camellias, still blooming away. The local legend was that these camellias were planted on the grounds of a house built before the Civil War as a wedding present to a daughter. The camellias were air-layered slips from originals planted in the 1830s on the adjacent property of the bride’s parents. This property is still known as “Japonica Path“ for its camellias. When I first visited this nineteenth century bride’s abandoned and neglected garden, the camellias were flourishing as if time were of no consequence.
In their native habitats in Asia. China, Korea, Viet Nam and Japan, camellias grow on well-drained hillsides under the dappled shady canopy of tall trees. While some tolerate sun more than others, most prefer a replication of their native situation, planted under tall trees, in acid humus-rich well drained soil. And for me they always look best the way I first saw them, planted in an understory forest in large groups with other shade loving plants. However, the tall sasanquas make wonderful informal hedges, and some of the exquisite flowered japonicas deserve to be featured garden plants.
Companion shrubs which enjoy the same conditions as camellias recommended by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Camellia Society include Azalea, Illicium (anise) , Michelia , Osmanthus, loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), Franklin tree (Franklinia alathamaha), silky camellia (Stewartia malacodendron), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), and southern blueberries (Vaccinium virgatum). Gardens here in Alabama often have both native and Japanese magnolias combined with camellias.
Camellia breeders in both Japan and the United States are working to produce plants with more cold hardiness. In the United States camellias are normally hardy through Zone 7b. There is a collection in Washington D.C. at the National Arboretum. The plants will however be damaged by occasional hard freezes. Camelliagirl discusses frost protection for camellias, Camellia sinensis, tea camellias, and growing camellias from seed in this thread.
In Asia there are many species of camellias. Camellia sinensis, the tea camellia, is grown on tea plantations for the commercial production of tea. (Photographs 2 and 3). Camellia oleiflera is used for the production of camellia oil from seed pods . Camellia oil is used in cosmetics because the oil is similar to human skin oil . It is used as hair oil by the Sumo wrestlers of Japan. During the Japanese Edo period (1603-1867) Camellia oil was used to prevent corrosion on Samari swords. This tradition is still maintained by Japanese woodworkers to prevent corrosion of metal tools
And, of course camellia seeds can be used to grow more camellias. Seed grown camellias, though, are not likely to resemble their parent plants. For this reason, most home growers prefer to propagate named camellias from hardwood cuttings or air layers.
2. Camellia sinensis, large-leafed tea plant 3. Japanese tea plantation. Mechanically sheared leaf tips 4. Camellia seedpod
While there are many camellia species in Asia, in the United States only two ornamental species and the hybrids between them are commonly available, Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua. Both of these species are indigenous to Japan. The spectacular late-blooming Camellia hiemalis is possibily a sasanqua-japonica hybrid. The tender Camellia reticulata is not widely available. The limited availability of camellia species in this country is largely because the native habitats of Camellias in China, Korea, and Viet Nam have been politically inaccessible to American plant breeders.
Sasanqua camellias begin blooming in October and their flowers are often large single blooms. The Japonica camellias tend to be not so tall and their flowers are more formal in presentation.
5. Camellia sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’ 6. Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ 7. Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugeka’
There are a few single flowered Camellia japonica cultivars, but most are double flowered. The American Camellia society classifies camellias on the basis of flower form. Camellia Nomenclature is a biannual serial publication of the American Camellia Society that reviews and defines the classification of camellias. Currently, six classes of camellia are defined on the basis of flower form: Class I. Single. Class II. Semi-Double. Class III. Anemone. Class IV. Peony. Class V. Rose Form. Class VI. Formal Double. Roseform and Formal Double flower forms are characterized by imbricated petals — the petals are layered like fish scales. The cultivar “Pink Perfection” is the classic example of the formal double imbricated flower form and there is at least one plant in nearly every Southern garden. “Pink Perfection” is featured in this thread by GenePhillips.
There is also a group of miniature flowered camellias. (See Photograph 12, Tiny Star).
8. Camellia japonica ‘Professor Charles Sargeant’ 9. Camellia Japonica ‘Pink Perfection’ 10. Camellia japonica ‘Silver Wave’
Peony Form Formal Double Semi-Double
Traditionally camellia colors in the United States are white, pink, and red, but in the 1970s China opened its doors to botanists from the West. Seeds for yellow camellias (Camellia nitidissima) became available to western breeders. The chinese yellow cultivars were off white and pale yellow. “Buttermint”, “Ki-No-Muto No. 95” are both soft yellow flowered camellias, while “Brushfields Yellow” is off white and “Golden Glow” is pale yellow.
A few years later yellow Vietnamese camellias became available. These were camellias with stronger yellow colors.
There are now about 25 species of yellow camellias contributing to hybridizing programs in the United States and Japan.
To learn more about camellias, I would highly recommend monocromatico’s web bibliography of links to camellia websites in this thread.
As a result of the lifting of the iron curtain the full genetic diversity of camellias is now available to plant breeders. New, more practical, more cold hardy, and even more beautiful camellias should soon be available at your local nursery.
14. Camellia chrysantha 15. Infant Gorilla
The Tea House. 1915 Panama-California Exposition, Balboa Park, San Diego. (Postcard Photo) www.sandiegohistory.org
William A. Mc Namara. Illicium simonsii. Quarryhill Botanical Garden 2001-2005. www.quarryhillbg.org
HGTV. Magnolias and Michelias. www.hgtv.com
A Checklist for Selecting Camellias. www.camellia.gulfcoast-gardening.com
William L. Ackerman. Hardy Camellias. Camellias for Cold Climates. International Camellia Society. www.camellia-ics.org
Discussion of History and Variety of Camellias in Japan. www.homepage3.nifty.com
The Japan Woodworker. Camellia Oil to prevent corrosion on tools. www.thejapanwoodworker.com
Japan Classification. Japanese Classification of Camellias. www.homepage3.nifty.com
The Diversity of Camellias. Illustrated Explanation of the Camellia Nomenclature Flower Forms. 2004. Mississippi Gulf Coast Camellia Society.
Karen Dardick. January 28, 2007. Captivating Camellias. The San Diego Union-Tribune.
National Symposium on Yellow Camellia in Vietnam, 2002. Index Page. web-seisan.agr.ehime
LEARN MORE: Camellia Photo gallery. www.camellia.gulfcoast-gardening.com
Thumbnail. Bootandall. C. Sasanqua Mine-no-yuki. Plant Files. www.davesgarden.com
1. Gorilla. 1811225. Design Pics. Royalty Free Photograph. www.fotosearch.com
3. Tea Plantation in Japan. Kennedyh. October 1992. “The regular shape of the bushes results from the machine harvesting of the tea leaf tips.” Kennedyh. PlantFiles. www.davesgarden.com.
4. Camellia seed pod. Fchisholm. PlantFiles. www.davesgarden.com
5. Camellia sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’. Calif_Sue. November 2, 2007. PlantFiles. www.davesgarden.com.
6 Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’. Calif_Sue. November 1, 2007. PlantFiles. www.davesgarden.com.
8 Camellia japonica ‘Professor Charles Sargeant’. scutler. April 5, 2005. PlantFiles. www.davesgarden.com
10. Camellia japonica ‘Silver Wave’. moonglow. PlantFiles. www.davesgarden.com
11. Camellia japonica ‘Sea Foam’. genesnsy. Sept. 12, 2005. PlantFiles. www.davesgarden.com.
12. Camellia japonica ‘Tiny Star’. bootandall. PlantFiles. www.davesgarden.com.
13. Camellia japonica ‘Bob Hope’. gardenermark. April 11, 2005. PlantFiles. www.davesgarden.com
14. Camellia chrysantha. Begoniacrazii. 2006. PlantFiles. www.davesgarden.com
15. Infant gorilla. 40913. Brand X Pictures. Royalty Free Photograph. www.fotosearch.com