Sasanquas create winter color in the landscape

Richard Bogren, Young, John, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  12/11/2009 9:27:42 PM

Sustainable Landscape News Distributed 12/11/09

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Allen Owings and John Young

Sasanquas are one of our most popular flowering shrubs for the late fall through early spring months. They go by the scientific names of Camellia sasanqua.

Sasanquas are typically smaller-growing than plants that we normally call camellias. They also have finer-textured foliage. They bloom from mid-October through December or January. Sasanquas are very abundant these days due to the popularity of the variety ShiShi Gashira.

ShiShi Gashira is a smaller growing, dwarf-type plant. Its flowers are rose pink. It is actually another species of camellia, technically Camellia hiemalis. This variety, though, is typically lumped in to the sasanqua group. Other popular sasanquas are Bonanza, Yuletide, Stephanie Golden, Leslie Ann and Sparkling Burgundy. A new variety, similar to ShiShi Gashira, is called Hot Flash. This variety, which has red flowers, is available at garden centers on a selective basis.

Success growing sasanquas depends on the planting site. A part-sun to part-shade location is best, especially for younger plants. Choose a location that receives 4 to 6 hours of direct sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon or a spot that receives light, dappled shade throughout the day.

When planted in full sun, sasanquas are subject to more stressful conditions. The foliage sometimes has a yellowish look, and flower buds may not open properly. Plants in full sun also may be more susceptible to injury in freezing weather.

Good drainage is essential. Do not plant camellias in areas that are poorly drained or where water settles after a rain. If an area has poor drainage, plant camellias on mounds or in raised beds.

These plants are acid-loving, and an alkaline soil (pH above 7) can limit their ability to obtain some nutrients, especially iron. When you are preparing an area for planting, you should incorporate a soil acidifier to help make the soil more acid if your soil is alkaline. Three readily available materials for this are ground sulfur, iron sulfate (copperas) and aluminum sulfate. Copperas should generally be used because it is faster-acting than sulfur and provides additional iron.

Fertilize in the spring as new growth begins – about March or early April. Use a fertilizer labeled for acid-loving plants or any general-purpose fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s label directions.

Sasanquas are part of our Southern gardening heritage. A few well-placed specimens will brighten your landscape during these late-fall and early-winter days when few other shrubs are blooming.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.louisianahouse.org and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

Rick Bogren

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