If you'd like your outdoors colorful and decorative this holiday season, plant C. Sasanqua. These camellias are now in bloom and come in many colors, including a variety known as 'Yuletide,' which has bright red flowers.
"Unlike other types of camellias, which require shady conditions, Sasanqua camellias can handle any exposure and actually bloom more in full sun," says Vince Hakes, owner of Huntington Garden Center in Huntington Beach.
Sasanqua camellias come in 1- and 5-gallon containers and will grow from 3 to 8 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide, with a small number hitting the 15-foot range.
Some Sasanqua camellias are upright growers, others spread, and some tend to cascade, making good hanging basket plants.
Besides 'Yuletide,' an upright grower with small, single flowers, there are many other varieties of Sasanqua camellias to choose from.
'Setsugekka' is upright and bushy with large, white, semidouble flowers. 'Apple Blossom' is a spreading plant with large, single blooms that have white petals with pink or red edges. Chansonette cascades and makes a good hanging basket plant. It has large, pink double flowers.
To successfully grow Sasanqua camellias in your garden, keep the following suggestions in mind:
* If you receive a camellia as a gift, don't keep the plant indoors for more than 10 days, because it will suffer from the dry, warm air.
* Camellias require well-drained soil high in organic matter. When planting in the ground, amend the soil by at least 20% with an azalea/camellia planting mix or other acid planting mix.
* Camellias make excellent container plants. Plant gallon-size camellias in 12- to 14-inch pots and 5-gallon ones in 16- to 18-inch containers. Use a potting soil high in organic matter or an acidic planting mix.
* Plant camellias so the trunk base is above the soil line, and always keep this base clear of debris and soil.
* Maintain the roots at an even temperature year-round by mulching with a 2-inch-thick mulch of homemade or bagged compost.
* Fertilize monthly when not in bloom with an acidic plant food. Fertilizing when in bloom is not necessary, because camellias bloom on stored-up energy. Over-fertilizing can lead to burned leaf edges, excessive leaf drop and spotting on leaves.
* Camellias are shallow-rooted and need to be well-watered but should never be soggy. Water camellias when the soil has just reached the dry side. Thoroughly soak the soil.
* Watch for aphids on new growth when the weather warms in the spring. Treat with a strong blast of water or insecticidal soap.
* Avoid camellia petal blight, a disease that causes flowers to rapidly turn brown, by keeping the ground clear of dropped leaves and flower heads. If the plant has petal blight, remove all affected flowers and any mulch and dispose of it all in a covered trash bin.
* Prune camellias right after they finish flowering to whatever shape you desire. Make sure to remove dead or diseased wood and to thin where branches are closely spaced. Encourage upright growth by pruning lower branches.
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DECEMBER PLANTING LIST
Although you may be preoccupied with the holidays, you don't need to neglect your garden. A number of plants can be put in the ground this month.
Because of the short amount of daylight this time of year, seeds will take longer to germinate than it says on the seed packet. If you don't want to wait, it's best to plant transplants whenever possible.
Armeria (sea pink)
Santa Barbara daisy
TREES & SHRUBS
Australian tea tree
Camellias ( C. Sasanqua )
Crocus (chilled 8 weeks)
Hyacinth (chilled 8 weeks) lily
Tulip (chilled 8 weeks)