When Louisiana gardeners hear the word “camellia,” they think of the large-flowered, evergreen shrubs that bloom from December to April. This is Camellia japonica, the most prominent of the camellia species in Louisiana gardens.
Camellia sasanqua is another commonly grown species. Plants in this species are called sasanquas to distinguish them from Camellia japonica, which we call camellias. The growth habit of sasanquas is generally bushy when they are young, but as they age they will eventually grow into attractive small trees 10 to 15 feet tall. The foliage is smaller than most camellias and is a glossy, dark green. Their flowers are not as large as the typical camellia, but they often have a wonderful spicy fragrance and are produced in great abundance from October through mid-winter.
And that brings us to ShiShi Gashira
, the outstanding camellia that is a Louisiana Super Plants
selection for fall 2010. The ShiShi Gashira camellia is a slow-growing shrub that can reach 5 feet tall but is more typically around 3 feet. It’s often called a dwarf sasanqua because it’s smaller-growing than typical sasanquas. The flowers and foliage are similar to sasanquas, and they bloom at the same time.
But ShiShi Gashira actually belongs to a different species called Camellia hiemalis. It is one of the most widely planted and popular camellias for Louisiana landscapes, and it’s been used successfully around the state for decades. This is one reason it was selected for the Louisiana Super Plants program.
Louisiana Super Plants are tough and beautiful plants that perform well in Louisiana landscapes. They have a proven track record, having gone through several years of university evaluations or years of observations by industry professionals. Home gardeners and professional landscape horticulturists alike can benefit from using Louisiana Super Plants because of their reliable performance around the state. Louisiana Super Plants are “university tested and industry approved.”
Everyone loves the beautiful flowers and long blooming season of this shrub. Dark pink flowers two to three inches across are produced in abundance from October to early January. The colorful display at a time of the year when few trees and shrubs are blooming make this plant an outstanding addition to landscapes where color is desired.
The compact growth habit and slow rate of growth make ShiShi Gashira an excellent choice for smaller gardens, foundation plantings, containers and basically anywhere a smaller shrub is appropriate.
Although these plants are tough and reliable, success with ShiShi Gashira camellias depends on the planting site and the care they’re given. A location with part sun to part shade is ideal. Choose a location that receives four to six hours of direct sun in the morning and some shade in the afternoon, or find a spot that receives bright, dappled shade throughout the day. This camellia, however, also will grow well in full sun.
Good drainage is essential. Don’t plant in areas that are poorly drained or where water settles after a rain – or plant in raised beds if drainage is a problem. Incorporating organic matter into the bed will help improve the soil for better growth. Compost, finely ground composted pine bark and rotted manure are all suitable forms of organic matter.
Camellias are acid-loving plants and alkaline soils with a pH above 7 can limit their ability to obtain some soil nutrients, especially iron. If your garden soil has a pH above 7, you should incorporate a soil acidifier when you’re preparing the area for planting to help make the soil more acid. The three readily available materials are finely ground sulfur, iron sulfate (copperas) and aluminum sulfate.
As with all trees and shrubs, planting depth is very important. Make sure you plant ShiShi Gashira camellias with the upper surface of the root ball even with or slightly above the soil level of the planting area. Apply mulch several inches thick around the newly planted camellia to help maintain moisture and prevent weed growth.
Fertilize ShiShi Gashira camellias in spring as new growth begins in March or early April. Use a fertilizer labeled for acid-loving plants according to the manufacturer’s label directions.
Although excellent drainage is necessary, these shrubs need adequate water – especially during hot, dry spells during the summer. This is particularly important for newly planted shrubs during their first year in the ground.
Look for ShiShi Gashira camellias at your local nurseries and garden centers this fall. You should see them near signs about the Louisiana Super Plants program. It truly would be hard to find a finer, more attractive and reliable low-growing shrub for Louisiana landscapes. You may be thinking of the perfect spot for some now. Visit (www.lsuagcenter.com/SuperPlants
) for more information on the Louisiana Super Plants program and the plants selected for fall 2010.