Camellias for Christmas

Empress camellia blooms in my garden today

The white selection of empress camellia

If the weather holds, empress camellia will grace our holiday dinner table on December 25. That’s right. Most years my empress camellias, also called lady clare, bloom from late December until late spring. During the times we have heavy freezes many of the opening blooms will turn brown and fall off. Then, when the weather becomes mild again, the blossoms that were not damaged will open. That can happen over and over until the plant exhausts its buds.
One thing I have noticed is that the common empress is much more vigorous for me than the white one, but both bloom off and on throughout a mild winter. I have both plants a bit sheltered and placed close to the house. The biggest one is over ten feet tall and is a multi-stem plant I walk under to get into the garden. One important thing about the blooms is to get them up off the ground before they start rotting to prevent camellia petal blight. If you don’t have these in your garden, some large garden centers carry them, or order them from a camellia specialty nursery.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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