For glossy evergreen leaves and gorgeous winter blooms, camellias are hard to beat! And with fall rains and cooler temperatures upon us, now is a great time to add these beautiful flowering shrubs to your garden. Of course, we know that not everyone is able to garden in the ground — and even if you are, you might be daunted by the thought of selecting a permanent spot in your landscape. Whatever your situation, a container garden is a great way to cultivate a little joy around you this fall, and our president and matriarch, Deby Barnhart, is here to demonstrate how to do just that with a decorative pot, a few bulbs, and a camellia.
Intro to Camellias
Camellias can generally be divided into two major classes, which are derived from the species Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua, although here at the Farm, we also carry exciting varieties like the tea camellia (Camellia sinensis).
- Japonicas generally bloom in late winter or early spring, have larger leaves, and want to grow in a shadier spot than their sasanqua counterparts.
- Sasanquas, on the other hand, bloom in late fall or early winter, have smaller leaves with more serrated edges, and will tolerate a sunnier location in your garden, though they prefer filtered sun.
When planning out her container garden, Deby chose a compact sasanqua camellia that is the sister to the classic garden favorite 'Yuletide,' but in an updated hue. Pink-A-Boo®, as you might have guessed from its name, boasts beautiful soft pink, fragrant blooms with bright yellow stamens on a plant that has the same dense, upright habit of its sister.
In general, because of their shallow root systems and great garden qualities, camellias make excellent candidates for container culture. Planting into containers allows you to create a dramatic vignette that you can move around as you see fit. Consider placing a camellia in a decorative pot near a window, patio, or walkway to really maximize your enjoyment of their bountiful blooms — or move it around to test out different placements in your landscape.
Planting in a Container
To get planting, Deby recommends you select a decorative container that's a little larger than the nursery pot your camellia is already growing in, especially if you plan to add in any additional plants or bulbs, as she has. Using a quality potting soil suitable for outdoor use — we recommend Edna's Best from E.B. Stone Organics — add enough soil to the bottom of your container so that when your plant is lowered into it, the existing soil level in your nursery pot is 1-2 inches from the top rim of the new pot. You want to maintain this soil level in your camellia's new home; with woody plants especially, it is important that you don't plant too deeply and bury the main growing stem. After adjusting the soil level in the bottom of your container accordingly, mix in a handful of slow-release fertilizer like E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start to help feed your plant and help it get established. Then, it's just a matter of gently removing your camellia from its nursery pot and lowering it into its new home! Unless your roots are circulating the nursery pot, there is no need to disturb the root ball of your plant at all.
Before filling in around your camellia with more soil, consider adding complementary bulbs, like Tulipa cretica 'Hilde' and Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance' that Deby chose in order to extend the bloom season of her container into the spring. For best performance, you should plant your bulbs at the correct depth for their size, and make sure that they have some breathing room before covering them with soil. Planting bulbs too close together can encourage rot.
Planting in the Ground
If you plan to add your camellia directly to your landscape, the steps are very similar, and Deby cautions us to dig a planting hole that is wider than your plant's root ball, but only as deep. If you have heavy soil, you can amend this with 30% compost.
Want Some Help?
Cornell Farm is always here to help with your plant and gardening needs, and we currently have a wide selection of camellias to fit your design sensibility. If you’d like help getting yours in the ground, we also offer professional Planting Services to help you get your trees and shrubs off to the best start with minimal hassle. If you’re looking around your garden this fall and noticing a lack of cool season interest but don’t know where to start, this is also a great time to bring in the help of our professional Garden Coaching services to aid you in creating the landscape of your dreams with year-round interest to help you maximize enjoyment of your outdoor space.
Happy fall planting!