Sasanqua camellias are one of the few shrubs that bloom this time of year. Although not as well known as the more popular spring blooming Camellia japonica varieties, sasanqua camellias can begin flowering as early as October and continue through fall into winter. Native to China and Japan, these awesome plants differ from the more commonly planted spring blooming camellias in several ways: their growth habit is more open and graceful; their flowers are often fragrant; their leaves are smaller; and they are very adaptable to different types of soil.
One of the favorites among home gardeners this time of year is the cultivar “Yuletide”. Just in time for Christmas, it bursts into bloom with its fiery, bright red petals, which circle bright yellow stamens.
There are countless other cultivars of sasanqua camellias. Flowers range from single, semi-double, or fully double flowers that are small, medium or large in shades of pink, rose, red and white. These plants tend to be hardier than the spring flowering japonicas and will tolerate more sunlight.
The ideal planting location, however, is still shade to part sun and shade. The sasanquas are also easy to prune and make good hedges and are easy to grow in containers. By choosing both Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica gardeners can have the best of worlds, spring and winter bloom and great summer time foliage.
Standard varieties grow to become large shrubs up to 10 feet or more in height and 6 feet in width. There are now dwarf varieties that are somewhat shorter and have a more compact habit of growth.
These broadleaved evergreen shrubs can be used in several ways in the landscape. They are well adapted for hedges or screens, in mass plantings, as foundation plants for large houses and as freestanding specimens. They have the ability to grow in sun or shade, are easy to care for and live for hundreds of years.
Camellia sasanquas are near-perfect plants for our coastal gardens. Their colorful blooms during our short and often gray winter days are a welcome addition to any landscape.