Sasanqua Camellias – Upright and Horizontal

Note how this Shishi Gashira has a horizontal growth habit

Shishi Gashira in several stages of bloom

Note the upright habit of this Rose of Autumn sasanqua

Blossoms of Rose of Autumn sasanqua

Open Leslie Ann sasanqua bloom

Bud of the upright Leslie Ann sasanqua

This year sasanqua camellias are showing off. The neat thing is the best time to plant these camellias is when they are in bloom, in other words now. Not only is selecting color and bloom type that you like important in selecting a plant, but also some grow in a horizontal growth habit and others in an upright growth habit. In general, I consider the plants to be large shrubs.  As they age some of the horizontal types can mature at 6 to 8 feet across, and the upright types I have seen up to 15 feet tall. In the Hulsey Woods and Hess Camellia Garden at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, there are excellent examples of many of the hardy types for our area. Popular now are the October Magic series from Southern Living. These are basically the horizontal or spreading type sasanquas. If purchasing these from a good garden center, be sure and read the label to know what the growth habit of the plant will be. The Southern Living Garden at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens has an excellent collection of camellias from the Southern Living plant collection. I guess the main thing that you should know is that camellias do best for me in high filtered shade or enough shade where they are not in full sun all day. Since most of these plants are purchased in containers, when planting make sure you dig a hole at least two times the width and depth of the container in which the plant was purchased. Mix organic matter with the existing soil for backfilling the planted sasanqua. Before you place the root ball in the hole, be sure that if the roots are encircling the container, to make several cuts in the root ball to encourage root growth outside the current ball. Plant the root ball slightly above the original container height (a couple of inches is fine). Fill and pack the backfill around the newly planted shrub and water well. I water every plant three times when I plant them. Mulch if desired and enjoy your new sasanqua camellia, hopefully still in bloom.

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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