My Favorite Camellia In Bloom

Empress camellia also know as Lady Clare camellia

Empress Camellia also know as Lady Clare Camellia

White Empress Camellia in full bloom

White Empress Camellia in full bloom

Warm late fall and early winter days and cold night are the perfect formula for Empress camellias to bloom here in Birmingham. This is my favorite camellia because oftentimes I have these flowers grace our home on Christmas Day. The red flowered Empress camellia is generally easy to find at good garden centers in the metro area. The white selection is more difficult to find locally, so you might have to order it from a camellia nursery. My Empress is planted close to the house, in part shade and a well drained location. It is about 20 years old planted from a three gallon container, and it is now about 15 feet and I have it pruned into a tree form. I can walk under it. My white empress is struggling, but that is due to its moist location and needs to be moved. At our church, we have two white Empress located next to a building, and they are doing great in a similar location as my Empress. The major enemies of common camellia in our area are extreme cold winter temperatures, planted in wet locations, and camellia tea scale. We cannot do much about the weather, but planting them in a semi-protected location helps. But we can plant them in a well drained location and control the tea scale infestations with pesticides. While many folks plant them in sunny locations, I prefer to plant them in high filtered shade. Here is another reason I like Empress camellias; even if they are in bloom, and we have a hard freeze, once the day temperatures warm, the tight blooms will open and it will flower again. I have had this happen over and over again, and then finally profusely bloom in early spring.

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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