Camellias: Timeless Elegance

Mar 15, 2022

By Veronica 

Camellias are to Spring what the roses are to the Summer. They bring the timeless elegance to the garden and what they lack in scent, they make it up with their perfectly shaped flowers. No wonder why it was the emblem of the iconic Coco Chanel.

These evergreen (they keep their leaves all year-round) shrubs are fairly easy to grow although there are some rules to respect to guarantee success.

Position: Camellias will grow best in partial shade with sun in the afternoon. They will also tolerate full shade for most varieties. The morning sun may burn the buds when they are still wet from the morning dew and damage the flowers to come. A full sun position is not ideal as the glossy, dark green foliage will fade.

Soil: These shrubs are ericaceous plants so they need acid soil.  If your soil is not naturally acidic, you can add ericaceous compost or soil in the planting hole and top-up every year with an ericaceous feed or sulphate of iron. Camellias grow well in tubs as well.

Water: Camellias need to be kept well-watered, especially during the summer. Indeed, it is a common mistake to forget them a little during the hot season as they finished flowering. However, this is when they need the most moisture as they start producing the buds for the following year’s flowers. Uneven watering at this stage can be the cause of buds falling before opening in the spring.

Summer is also the best time to feed with a seaweed based sequestered iron, even more so the plants in pots, in order to keep your shrubs healthy.

Pruning: Pruning is not necessary but can be done to maintain a pleasant shape. It must be light and done just after flowering (late spring).

Problems: Camellias can be affected by different types of fungus. In that case, cleaning the mould (if on the leaves) and removing affected parts is the best treatment.

Beautiful Varieties to try

Nuccio's Gem:

This variety is an absolute stunner in shade where its large, double, pure white flowers will catch the eye from mid-winter to early spring.

It can grow to 3 metres high and wide so it will require a large container if grown in a pot.

RHS Award of Garden Merit


‘Bonomiana’ is a gorgeous variety with bicolour petals. The pale pink flowers have darker pink streaks.

It is not as wide as the Nuccio’s gem, it will grow to 3 metres high and 2 metres wide, making it a better choice for a smaller garden.

Black Lace: 

This compact shrub grows to 2m and bears some of the most dramatic flowers. The rich blackish-red blooms appear in March.

RHS Award of Garden Merit


Jury’s Yellow:

The most unusual flowers adorn this shrub. With white outer petals and yellow petaloids, these pompom-like flowers are simply exquisite. It is also a very free-flowering variety that grows to 3 metres high and wide.

RHS Award of Garden Merit

Dr King:

This stunning and reliable variety is covered with red, semi-double flowers in spring. It is also a smaller variety, perfectly suited for pots.

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