Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.
News Release Distributed 12/14/12
By Allen Owings
HAMMOND, La. – Sasanquas are one of our most popular flowering shrubs for late fall through early winter. They go by the scientific name of Camellia sasanqua.
Sasanquas are typically smaller-growing than plants we normally call camellias. They also have finer-textured foliage and 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. With rose pink flowers, 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 and with red flowers, is called Hot Flash (or Reverend Ida). You may be able to find this variety in a few garden centers.
Try also the new Southern Living Plant camellias. These include October Magic Inspiration, October Magic Orchid, October Magic Snow, Pink Stella, Jessica’s Ruffles, Alabama Beauty, Bella Rouge and Diana.
Success with sasanquas depends on the planting site. Part sun to part shade is best, especially for younger plants. Choose a location that receives four hours to six hours of direct sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Or select 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 also 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.
All camellia 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, 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 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.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by viewing the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond. Also, like us on Facebook by going to www.facebook.com and typing Hammond Research Station in the search box. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals.