How to Propagate and Grow These Amazingly Handsome Shrubs
Evergreen shrubs and trees from China and Japan, belonging to the Tea family, Theaceae. They are adapted for outdoor cultivation in the milder parts of the United States, but in the North need greenhouse protection. Their beautiful flowers, single, partially double, or double, varying in color from white, through pink, to deep red and including variegated kinds, are produced from October to April, their season depending somewhat upon climatic conditions in different locations. The Latin name, Camellia, commemorates the Moravian botanist and Jesuit missionary George Joseph Kamel.
Approximately 65 wild forms of Camellia are recognized, of which a dozen or so are in cultivation. Most garden varieties belong to three species, C. japonica, C. Sasanqua and C. reticulata.
Camellias may be grown from seeds, which are produced mostly by single or nearly single varieties. These are sown in pots, flats or beds filled with the same soil mixture that is used for growing plants. Seeds should be sown soon after they have matured and have been gathered, for best results. Garden varieties do not come true from seeds, but seed sowing is useful for propagating species and to provide stocks for grafting.
Fine garden varieties, true to form or type, are grown in large numbers from cuttings taken in late July or August. Terminal shoots or twigs are used, about 4 inches long, each with two or three leaves. These are inserted in pots or beds of coarse sand to which a very small amount of peat may be added. They are handled in a greenhouse or, in mild climates, in the open.
Varieties are also increased by grafting on plants grown from seeds or cuttings. This is best done about three weeks before growth starts in spring. The cleft graft is commonly used and the scion is inserted close to the ground. In outdoor grafting, after the scion is inserted and firmly tied in place, it is covered to its tip with sand or clean soil and the whole is covered with a glass jar (cloche), which remains in place until growth begins, whereupon it is removed. A special propagating frame in a greenhouse may also be used for handling grafts. They are kept in it until the union has taken place.
Outdoor Garden Culture
Ordinary well-drained soil with a slightly acid reaction is suitable for Camellias but it can be improved by the addition of peat, compost or well-decayed manure when preparations are made for planting. Drainage should be good. Holes for planting should be larger than are actually needed for the spread of the root systems to allow for generous amounts of a good soil mixture being packed around them.
Plants should be set with their upper roots close to the ground level. At the time of planting and afterward, watering should receive careful attention and the foliage should be syringed with water at least once daily until the plants are well established.
Camellias are shapely plants that require little pruning aside from the removal of dead twigs and stunted interior branches and the heading back of those that extend beyond the outline of the head. Specimens that have outgrown their allotted space in garden or greenhouse may be cut back hard and syringed several times daily until new growth is formed. The best time for pruning is after flowering, from April to June, depending upon variety and location.
In a greenhouse (winter, night temperature 40-45 degrees, day temperature 45-55 degrees), Camellias can be grown in large pots or tubs or they may be planted out in well-prepared, well-drained beds. A good soil mixture for them can be made by mixing two parts fertile loam or good garden soil, one part peat moss and one part sand. Such a soil mixture is satisfactory both for plants in pots and plants in beds. The addition of a little-dried cow manure and bone meal is helpful.
The roots of Camellias must not be allowed to become dry, nor must they be overwatered, as either extreme will result in unhealthy plants and will cause the flower buds to drop, a serious difficulty in growing Camellias. Free ventilation in mild winter weather and also during summer and early autumn, careful watering, frequent syringing and good control of pests are all helpful in securing satisfactory results. Fine flowers can be produced if simple precautions are followed. Shade from strong, direct sunshine must be provided from spring to fall.
Handling Pot Plants in Summer
It is good practice to place tub-grown Camellias out of doors in partial shade, if at all possible, as soon as danger of frost has passed in spring, there to remain for the summer and to be returned to the greenhouse in advance of killing frost in autumn. While the specimens are outside, careful attention must be given to fertilizing, watering, syringing and control of insects and other pests so that when they are returned to the greenhouse they will be in the best possible condition.
By far the greater number of Camellias grown in greenhouses and gardens are derived from C. japonica. The species has been known in western gardens since early in the eighteenth century but real interest in them dates from the 1790’s when a few fine varieties were brought to England. Varie ties a t first were secured from China and Japan but later new varieties in large numbers were raised from seed both in Europe and in the United States. In more recent years the list of varieties has been further increased by many additions from the Orient, principally from Japan, until more than 3,000 sorts have been named.
In 1820, a nameless Camellia came to England from China that later was given the name C. reticulata. Its flowers are large, irregular in outline, semidouble to double, made up of glistening, rose-madder-colored petals. A second, more double one, was secured in the 1850’s and single ones of the same species were grown from Chinese seeds in England about a century after the first introduction. In 1948 about eighteen varieties of C. reticulata were secured and are now growing in the United States and England. Large-flowered, especially valuable for green house culture, a few of those now avail able are: Chang Temple, semidouble, very large, pale bright pink; Comelian, incomplete double, large, dark carmine-rose, marbled white; Lion Head, incomplete double, large, variegated dark red and white; Moutancha, imbricated double, large, self purplish-red; Professor Tsai, semi double loose, large, carmine-rose; Shot Silk, semidouble, large, petals waved, brilliant car mine; Tali Queen, semidouble, very large, car mine-rose, variegated white.
Two other Camellias, or plants grown as Camellias, C. cuspidata (Thea cuspidata) and C. saluenensis and varieties secured from them, are good garden subjects.
Seeds of C. oleifera furnish an oil used in the Orient. A recent United States Department of Agriculture introduction is C. fraterna, a fine greenhouse subject. The Tea plant, which was once called Camellia Thea, is now placed in a distinct, but nearly related, genus instead of being classed as a Camellia; it is properly named Thea sinensis. In similar fashion the plant referred to here as Camellia cuspidata is referred to by some botanists as Thea cuspidata.
The following are a few fine, well-tested varieties, early (E), midseason (M) and late (L): Adolphe Audusson (M), semidouble, large, turkey-red; alba plena (E), imbricated double, medium, white; Daikagura (E), incomplete double, large, variegated carmine-rose and white; debutante (E), irregular double, medium, chromatic carmine-rose; Donklaari (M), semidouble, large, variegated turkey-red and white; elegans (M), incomplete double, large, carmine, sometimes variegated; incarnata (Lady Hume’s Blush) (M), imbricated double, small to medium, white faintly flushed rose; magnoliaeflora (M), double imbricated with budlike center, large, deep carmine; Mihata (M), single, irregular shape, dark turkey-red; peoniflora (M), incomplete double, large, variegated white with carmine; Ville de Nantes (M), semidouble, large, variegated white with turkey-red.
Graceful shrubs with small glossy leaves and mostly single flowers though there are a few semidouble and double sorts. They bloom from October into December in the lower South. There are about a hundred varieties that have originated in the United States or have been imported from Japan, where they are regarded highly as ornamental shrubs and where many kinds have been selected. They are somewhat more resistant to low temperatures than the japonicas. Among the best of these are: Cleopatra, semidouble, chromatic rose-bengale; Hebe, single with reflexed petals, solferino purple; Hinode-gumo, single to semidouble, large white, margined rose-bengale; Mino-no-yuki, semidouble, white, abundant flowering; Pink Snow, incomplete double, small, rhodarninepink; Showa-no-skae, irregular double, rhodamine-pink.