April Kiss CamelliaCamellia japonica ‘April Kiss’
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Camellia japonica ‘April Kiss’
Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
The April Kiss Camellia is a rare thing – a camellia that grows well and blooms profusely in zone 6. It is also going to survive freak cold winters in warmer zones, and it’s not just tough, it’s beautiful. The blooms have perfectly symmetrical geometry, and they are a wonderful warm and rich pink. Blooming begins in March or April, and blooming continues for up to 2 months. Out of bloom it has lovely rich-green foliage, ideal in shrub beds, woodlands, around the house or in planters. Renowned for its profuse blooming even when young, this is a ‘must have’ variety no matter where you live.
The April Kiss Camellia is hardy from zone 6 to zone 9. Plant it in partial shade, or beneath light dappled shade from deciduous trees. Plant in acidic soil, with a pH below 6.5. The soil should be rich and organic, moist but well-drained. Once it has suitable soil and light, it is easy to grow, without pests or diseases and needing very little attention. Water during dry spells. If you don’t have suitable soil, grow it in a planter or pot, using soil for acid-loving plants. Feed in spring and early summer with fertilizer blended for acid-loving plants.
Most gardeners recognize a camellia bush – the rich green glossy foliage is distinctive, and so are the beautiful blooms. There is a myth, though, that they can only be grown outdoors in the warmest zones. This is true of many, but there are some special varieties that were created for colder zones – or unusually cold winters in mild ones – that open up the world of camellias to gardeners in zone 6. Yes, that’s right, if you are in zone 6 you can have a camellia bush in your garden and enjoy the unique beauty of these gorgeous evergreen shrubs. Camellias can bloom in winter in the South, but in colder areas you will have to wait for spring – but not too long. The April Kiss Camellia is the earliest blooming of the hardy camellias, and if you plant one you really can start spring with a big, welcoming kiss. You will love the neat, symmetrical pink blooms that cover it in profusion, and the lush foliage – what a way to start the best season of them all.
The April Kiss Camellia is an upright evergreen shrub with a dense, bushy form, that will grow into a column-shaped plant up to 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide. The dark-green leaves are leathery and glossy, with a firm and smooth texture. They are usually between 2 and 4 inches long, and about half as wide, with a rounded tip tapering to a broad point, and fine blunt teeth along the edges. This plant has many branches and it retains its dense profile throughout its life.
This is the earliest of the cold-hardy camellias, and blooming begins in March in warmer zones, otherwise in April. A great feature of camellia bushes is how they bloom in sequence, with buds opening over a long period – 6 to 8 weeks – meaning plants are in bloom for about 2 months, something other flowering shrubs can only dream of. The April Kiss Camellia produces a profusion of blooms and the branches are smothered in buds, so they keep on opening more and more flowers, making a wonderful display. The blooms are medium-sized, between 3 and 4 inches across, and of the type camellia-lovers call, ‘Formal Double’. The many petals are neatly arranged in concentric overlapping circles, becoming smaller and smaller towards the center of the bloom, in a display of geometrical beauty. The color? A rich, deep, glowing pink, uniform across the whole bloom, deep enough to be almost red, yet still clearly pink. A bush in bloom is a glorious sight, and out of bloom it is still a very attractive shrub – no wonder camellias are so popular.
Camellias are perfect evergreens, even if they didn’t flower. Plant them around your home with other evergreens for stable structure. They are very useful on the north side because they are shade tolerant. Use them in the back of shrub beds or planted on a lawn. They fit well into wooded areas and they are ideal companions for rhododendrons and azaleas. With its upright form the April Kiss Camellia is a lovely hedge or screening plant. Space plants 3 feet apart for a solid wall of vegetation within a few years.
The April Rose Camellia was bred to be hardy, and it is one of the rare camellias that will grow well, without leaf burn or bud drop, in zone 6. If you thought you couldn’t succeed with a camellia in such a cold area, think again, because you can. It also grows well in warmer zones, and in northern areas you can grow it in a pot and bring it into a cold, well-lit place during the coldest months.
The perfect spot for the April Rose Camellia is a place with morning sun and afternoon shade. It will grow well in the shade of deciduous trees, and on the north side of buildings. It can also be grown in the shadow of trees or buildings, with blue sky overhead and no direct sun, but avoid deep shade beneath evergreen trees. The soil should be moist but well-drained, and high in organic material. It also must be acidic, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. If you or your neighbors are growing azaleas, then you can grow camellias. If you don’t have suitable soil, then plant in a container – camellias are great plants for pots – using soil blended for acid-loving plants.
Feed your April Kiss Camellia in spring and early summer with fertilizer designed for camellias and other acid-loving plants. Pests or diseases are rare, and pruning is not usually necessary. Trim straight after flowering, if needed.
The Japanese camellia, Camellia japonica, came early to the south-east, where it has been grown since before 1800. The development of the variety called ‘April Kiss’ was inspired by harsh winters in the 1970’s and 80’s that killed many plants in the South. Dr. Clifford R. Parks of the North Carolina University, who died in 2020, was famous as a camellia authority and he made many crosses between different varieties to create new ones. After those cold winters he decided to develop cold hardy plants, and created several that bloom in spring, all with ‘April’ in their name. ‘April Kiss’ is a seedling from a cross between ‘Berenice Boddy’ and ‘Reg Ragland’. The earliest to bloom of all the ‘April’ plants, it was officially released in 1995 by Camellia Forest Nursery, in North Carolina.
These plants are grown from stem pieces that can be traced back to that original seedling, so they are exactly this hardy plant. Wherever you live, but especially if it is in zone 6, this is a wonderful camellia with elegant flowers produced in abundance. Order your bush now, because it is one of our biggest sellers, and these plants go fast.