Sasanquas, dwarf camellias add color to early-winter landscapes

Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.

News Release Distributed 11/22/13

By Allen Owings

LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – The sasanqua species of camellia is one of our most popular flowering shrubs for late fall through early spring. These 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 abundant these days due to the popularity of the variety ShiShi Gashira.

ShiShi Gashira is the most popular of the dwarf-type camellias for Louisiana landscapes. These-smaller growing plants reach 4 to 5 feet in the landscape. Flowers are rose pink.

ShiShi Gashira is actually another species of camellia, technically Camellia hiemalis. This species sometimes blooms earlier than the sasanqua species and is also more cold hardy.

Popular camellia sasanquas in Louisiana are Bonanza, Yuletide, Stephanie Golden, Leslie Ann and Sparkling Burgundy.

New to the plant market a few years ago is the great October Magic series of Camellia hiemalis developed by Bobby Green of Green Nurseries in Fairhope, Ala. Plants include October Magic Bride, October Magic Dawn, October Magic Inspiration, October Magic Orchid, October Magic Rose and October Magic Snow.

Bride is a small, very double, pure pink flowering shrub with a dense conical growth habit. Mature size is 4 to 6 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide. This variety is a profuse bloomer.

Dawn has large rose-form flowers. Blooms are blends of pink and resemble flowers of a Camellia japonica. Plants reach 4 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. The variety is great for a single specimen planting or for use as an intermediate hedge. Plants have dark green foliage.

Inspiration is a favorite. It has large double flowers that are white with a narrow maroon margin. New spring foliage is maroon. Plants reach 6 to 8 feet tall and will be 4 to 5 feet wide when mature.

Another favorite is Orchid, with white to blush small semidouble flowers that have orchid pink shades to the petals. Many blooms cover this plant. Plants reach 3 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide.

Rose has small very double salmon-rose blooms. This plant is an early bloomer and has a columnar, dense, upright habit. Plants reach 6 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide.

Snow has large, double, white flowers with a magenta edge. New spring foliage is copper tinged. Plants are compact and mounding but reach 5 to 7 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide at maturity.

Success with sasanquas and other dwarf camellias 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 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.

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 the 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 and camellias are part of our Southern gardening heritage. A few well-placed specimens will brighten up 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 visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.

Rick Bogren

11/22/2013 11:54:38 PM
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