Who isn’t crazy about camellias? These gorgeous flowering shrubs can add pops of color to any yard. They are long-blooming, hardy plants that are easy to grow in gardens or containers. The hardest thing about growing them is choosing from the countless camellia varieties! Or it would be if you didn’t have this handy, dandy guide. I will describe the 17 best camellia varieties, covering the different camellia species, purposes, and colors along the way.
Which Camellia is Right For My Garden?
Before perusing my list of the 17 best camellia varieties, determine what you are looking for from your camellias. A pop of color? A hardy grower? A useful plant? Decide what your preferences are using the questions below.
How Many Different Types of Camellias Are There?
Choosing which camellia is right for you is quite the task. After all, there are over 300 species of camellia and over 3,000 cultivars and hybrids to choose from. Camellias are part of the Theaceae family. The Theaceae family is also called the “tea family” because it includes the camellia sinensis plant which is the source of tea leaves for green, black, white, oolong, and numerous other types of tea.
Other camellia varieties, like camellia sasanqua and camellia japonica, are known for the beautiful flowers that they grow.
Where Does Camellia Grow?
The “camellia belt,” the southern Unites States, is where this flower from southeast Asia really blossoms. It grows best in the U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 7 through 9. However, some specific cultivars may be able to grow in the colder zone 6, or warmer zone 10.
You can grow camellias in your garden or in containers. They love spots that expose them to a few hours of sunshine each day, but also appreciate the shade, making them great border plants.
What is the Hardiest Camellia?
If you are looking to grow camellia in a less-than-ideal climate, go with a hardier variety. The hardiest species is camellia japonica which blooms in late winter to early spring. However, if you are looking to grow the plant in a hotter zone, camellia sasanqua can tolerate more sunlight than camellia japonica.
Overall, camellia bushes are extremely hardy plants, and once they take root they are long-lasting, having the potential to live to be 200 years old. The oldest camellia bush that is still alive was planted in 1347. It can currently be found in China’s Panlong Monastery.
What are the Camellia Colors?
Camellias come in a range of shapes and colors. Below are some of the colors and corresponding varieties that you can choose from.
Camellias come in beautiful light and bright pink shades that can add a pop of pink to your garden. Some beautiful, pink camellia varieties include, “April Remembered,” “Debutante,” “Cleopatra,” and “Guilio Nuccio.”
Looking for something more intense than pink? Try red! Add camellias with vivid red blossoms, like “Yuletides,” scarlet flowers like “Bonanza,” or sweet, mellow reds like “Spring’s Promise” to your garden. Some tall red options are “Kramer’s Supreme” and “Glen 40.”
Beautiful white camellias add a refreshed and clean touch to your garden. Try growing the pristine, “Purity, the luminous, “Swan Lake,” the fluted petal “Setsugekka, “ or the brightly blooming “White Doves.”
Can’t choose which beautiful color you want to feature in your garden? Try growing multicolored camellias! There is the rosy-pink and white “Chandleri Elegans,” the red and pink, “Kanjiro,” or even the dark pink, light pink, and white, “Jordan’s Pride.”
What is the Difference Between Camellia Sasanqua and Japonica?
Camellia sasanqua and camellia japonica are the two most common species of camellias to grow because of the beautiful flowers they produce and their resilience. The few notable differences between them are listed below.
Camellia japonica blooms in the spring while camellia sasanqua blooms in the fall.
Camellia japonica grows to be about 12 feet tall while camellia sasanqua grows to be about 10 feet tall. However, camellia sasanqua can be trimmed down to be as short as 2 feet tall.
The flowers of camellia sasanqua grow to be up to 4 inches in diameter while those of camellia japonica grow to be up to 5-6 inches in diameter. Camellia sasanqua flower petals grow to be about 1-2 inches long while camellia japonica petals grow to be up to 3-4 inches long.
The Best Camellia Varieties
1. Camellia Sinensis
Tea drinkers, this is the camellia for you! Camellia sinensis is the “tea shrub.” It grows leaves that can be used for white, green, black, and oolong tea. It takes 3 years of growth for the shrub to reach full maturation and be ready for tea leaf harvesting. Don’t let that discourage you from growing one. Caring for your camellia sinensis is not hard, because the plant is hardy. Once the three years are up you will be able to regularly harvest tea throughout the rest of the shrub’s life, which could be as long as 50 years. If you were looking to grow camellia flowers, this shrub also has those. Dainty, small white and pink flowers bloom on the shrub.
The wavy white petals of the setsugekka look as fragile as tissue paper. The petals sprout out of bright yellow stamens in their center, which provide a pop of color to this pristine flower. This camellia sasanqua is perfect to grow along walls and fences, its dark green foliage pleasantly blanketing them. The calming fragrance it emits will delight visitors of your garden. Be wary of keeping it in full sun because it is sensitive to heat. It prefers slightly acidic soil that should always be kept moist.
Perfect for pink-lovers, the bright pink petals of Debbie’s flowers are absolutely gorgeous. Their pop of color is all the more dramatic when contrasted with the glossy green foliage behind the flowers. Debbie is a camellia x williamsii hybrid, which means that it has glossy leaves and is extremely resilient against the cold. Camellia x williamsii hybrids are one of the easiest camellia species to grow because they have been bred for dependability.
Yuletide is a classic and gorgeous camellia that will set your heart ablaze. This dark green camellia bush is set alight when its fiery scarlet red flowers with yellow centers blossom in the winter. This plant is camellia sasanqua that can grow to be up to 10 feet tall. It is a hardy grower so it requires regular pruning to monitor its size and shape.
Australis camellia grows flowers with petals that are a brilliant shade of rose-red. Their dark green leaves are striking throughout the year even when the flowers aren’t in bloom. This plant is a camellia japonica that prefers full sun for a few hours a day, but also partial shade. If you prune it after it flowers each season it should remain the perfect size. It is very sensitive to cold and wind though, so be careful where you plant it, but otherwise, it is extremely easy to grow.
6. Lavinia Maggie
This award-winning camellia japonica has deep pink markings on pristine white petals. The petals are notably large, growing to be 5 inches in width. This elegant flower is simultaneously sophisticated and eye-catching. Keep it away from cold winds and it will thrive, growing to a maximum height of 10 feet.
This camellia sasanqua is short, only growing to be about 6 feet in height, but packs a visual punch with its bright-red fluted blooms circling a bright yellow stamen. While it doesn’t grow much vertically, it can horizontally spread up to 8 feet. It should be in either sun or partial shade, and special attention should be paid to keeping its roots moist. This fall flower emits a beautiful aroma and is an excellent option for container growing.
8. Pink Icicle
Other than having an incredible name, the pink icicle has a lot going for it. Its awesome soft and bright pink petals surrounding gorgeous yellow stamens in a peony-form make it one of the coolest camellias to grow. It grows very fast and thrives when grown in screens or hedges. This cold-weather-loving plant is also capable of thriving in zone 6 because it was bred for cold resilience.
9. Carter’s Sunburst
While its name is confusing, the fact that this camellia japonica has won several awards is not. It has beautiful soft-pink petals with raspberry-pink marking dotting them. It has a long blooming season, possessing flowers for ⅓ of the year, which is great because you will never want these flowers to go away. This incredible plant can grow to be 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
Chansonette is one of the most popular kinds of camellias to grow. This is in part due to it lasting a long time, and partly due to its stunning flower with lavender-pink frilled petals. It is a camellia hiemalis which means it blooms quickly in fall and maintains a bushy, medium-sized appearance. It grows to be only 3 feet tall which makes it an excellent container garden option. This award-winning camellia also works well for borders and hedges.
11. Les Jury
If you love roses, then you will love this camellia x williamsii. Its crimson-red flower petals arranged in a double-bloom form look just like roses. It can grow to be up to 6 feet in height and looks absolutely gorgeous when grown in containers. Notably, its leaves start out bushy and bronze but mature into a dark green color that they maintain all year long. Les Jury is relatively easy to grow and has a long growing season.
12. Korean Fire
The dark red funnel-shaped petals of Korean Fire are made all the more striking when juxtaposed with their bright yellow center. This striking camellia japonica can grow to be 15 feet in height, its dark, glossy leaves making it an excellent addition to borders and hedges. Use root mulch to keep this camellia looking its best.
13. Crimson King
This camellia sasanqua will be the king of your garden with large, 5-inch-wide bright red and pink petals surrounding a golden center. It blooms early and can grow to a maximum height of 12 feet when treated well. You should keep your crimson king in full sunlight, and make sure its roots are always moist. Treat your crimson king like a king and it will supply you with tons of eye-catching flowers!
Once you see the beautiful pale bluish-pink double petals of this camellia japonica, it will be the only camellia plant you desire. The unusual light color of Desire’s flowers fades into a deeper pink on its edges, giving it a soft yet striking look. It can grow to up to 10 feet tall and is an especially resilient plant. It will continue to bloom for several months from early to mid-season.
15. Spring Mist
This camellia hybrid is as soft and subtle as a spring mist with petals that are tainted slightly blush-pink. Spring mist has small semi-double flowers that are about 2 inches in width. Their center is bright yellow which contrasts nicely with the light coloring on the petals. Adding to its beauty, the glossy leaves of this gorgeous plant are green with unusual bronze shades. Although small and subtle in appearance, spring mist is a strong plant, blooming for a long period, from October to March in the northern hemisphere and March to August in the southern hemisphere.
16. Cinnamon Cindy
The small, 2-inch-wide blossoms of this attractive camellia are bright white tinged with an electric pink. The blossoms are peony-form with single stamens surrounded by up to 22 small petals. Cinnamon Cindy is here to stay, blooming for four months straight and having beautiful, glossy, reddish leaves for the rest of the year. Keep this camellia sheltered from the cold and extreme winds to maintain its dazzling appearance. This is a slow grower, and a short plant, reaching heights between 8-10 inches, which makes it a great container plant.
17. Elegant Beauty
There is no better name for this cheery camellia x williamsii. Its rose-pink petals get smaller as they approach the flower’s electric yellow center, gorgeously overlapping, giving the flower depth. Not just the flowers, but also the striking bronze-tinted leaves give this camellia an air of elegance. This plant can grow to up to 8 feet in height but can be controlled with frequent prunings. This award-winning camellia is perfect for container growing.
Congratulations camellia connoisseurs, now you are fully prepared to go choose which camellia you want to grow. Will it be Korean Fire? Yule Tide? Elegant Beauty? Let me know which one of these lovely winter plants you choose to grow in the comments below, and as always, if you enjoyed this guide, be sure to share it!