Camellias for early colour

Camellias are hardy shrubs that always signal the end of winter so its not surprising that they are the Horticultural Trades Association’s (HTA) ‘Plant of the Moment‘ for February.

Highly valued for their stunning floral displays and fresh, glossy, evergreen foliage and with dozens of varieties available, you will be spoilt for choice. You can pick camellias in shades of pink, red white and cream and with a wide variety of size, habit and growth rate, there will be a camellia for everyone.

Whether you would like something that stays small and compact or will grow into a bold shrub or even a flowering hedge or screen, the choice is yours.

Like azaleas and rhododendrons, camellias are ericaceous plants, and this means they need to grow in an acid or lime-free soil to ensure they stay healthy. Alternatively, compact varieties of camellia grow well in large pots or half-barrels filled with ericaceous compost, available in garden centres.

Top four popular camellias for pots or borders are:

‘Donation’ – Semi-double rose-pink flowers, upright habit and strong growing.
‘Adolphe Adusson’ – Bright red flowers and strong growing.
‘Debbie’ Peony-form pink flower, strong upright.
‘Lavinia Maggi’ – Large double, medium vigour with white flowers with pink stripes.

Top tip

Early flowering camellias can be damaged by frost, so position plants in a sheltered part of your garden. Move pots to sheltered sites during bad weather. Cover bushes with sheets of fleece to protect buds and blooms on frosty nights, removing it once conditions warm-up in the morning.

Planting combinations

Choose a range of hardy shrubs, flowering perennials and bulbs to grow in combination with camellias, as well as a selection of ground covering plants that will spread out over the soil beneath bushes. Here are some popular choices:

Azaleas, conifers, including yew, crocus and cyclamen.

Having grown camellias for many years I can highly recommend them and when not in flower their glossy foliage is always attractive and a perfect companion for a variety of plants.


Photo credit: Camellia banner ©Adam Pascoe