Debutante CamelliaCamellia japonica ‘Debutante’
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Camellia japonica ‘Debutante’
Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
The Debutante Camellia is a beautiful evergreen bush, with bold, glossy foliage, reaching 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. In late winter and early spring it puts on a brilliant display of large, peony-like flowers, in exquisite shades of rose pink, lasting for many weeks in succession. This variety is one of the most prolific bloomers of all the Japanese camellia varieties, and it is an excellent plant for woodlands, areas beneath deciduous trees, as an informal screen, in Asian-themed gardens, or in planters and boxes.
The Debutante Camellia is hardy in zones 8 to 10, and it can also be grown in sheltered gardens in zone 7. For good growth the soil should be moist, rich, well-drained and acidic, with a pH between 5.0 and 6.5. It grows in filtered light or bright full shade, but not in deep shade, as found beneath large evergreen trees. If you don’t have suitable soil conditions – or even if you do – it can be easily grown in pots, using soil blended for acid-loving plants, and in colder zones those pots can be overwintered in cool, well-lit porches, sun-rooms or conservatories, where they will bloom undamaged.
Camellias are the belles of the South, symbols of the Belle Epoque – and just plain beautiful. Their rich, evergreen, glossy foliage is handsome and appealing, and they flower during winter and early spring, just when we ache for color and beauty in our gardens. It may only be possible to grow them outdoors in the mildest zones, but with some winter protection, they can be grown almost anywhere. The flowers come in many forms, from prim formality to casual flamboyance, and in all the possible shades of pink and red, from pure, crystal white to the deepest blood-red shades. Pink is often the most loved, and for perfect balance between informality and grandeur, in delightful shades of shell pink, the Debutante Camellia is impossible to beat. The name evokes their past use in corsages for grand balls, and the irresistible beauty of the flowers arrives just as winter is turning to spring.
The Debutante Camellia is a densely rounded bush, reaching 6 to 8 feet tall, and almost as broad, growing up to a foot a year, especially when young. In time it will grow larger, unless trimmed. The leaves are 3 to 4 inches long, rounded and smooth ovals, tapering to a graceful point. They are 2 to 3 inches across, with a glossy surface, and a rich, deep-green coloring. The bush is densely leaved, contributing a solid form to your garden. In late summer you will see the large flower buds developing, and they sit, fat and tantalizing, through the winter months, until in late winter they begin to swell, opening in succession over at least two months, into the spring. Among camellias, it is an early to mid-season variety of the Japanese camellia.
The flowers are a full 3 inches across, and packed with many twisted and crested petals, in the style called peony-flowered. They are a rich rose pink, darker in the center, and paler towards the edges, giving an incredible depth to the blooms, which are spherical when fully open. This camellia is notable for the profusion of its blooms, with clusters of flower buds crowded every branch. They open in succession, with each one lasting a week or two, before falling and being replaced by more. In this way the bush is in gorgeous bloom for many weeks, creating a fabulous display.
The Debutante Camellia is perfect for planting in woodland gardens, or beneath large deciduous trees. It can be planted around your house – the north side is ideal – or used to frame an entrance. Plant it in beds, or as a hedge along a boundary. Use it behind summer-flowering shrubs, or in an Asian-themed garden.
The Debutante Camellia is hardy in sheltered gardens in zone 7, and completely hardy in zones 8, 9 and 10. It should be grown in filtered light, and not placed in deep shade, although it will thrive in light full shade. In zone 7 shade in early morning and afternoon is best, but some direct sunlight late morning to midday is appreciated. To grow well it should be grown in good soil, rich in organic material and moist but well-drained. The soil needs to be acidic, with a pH reading between 5 and 6.5, but not higher. You can test your soil with a simple kit, or if your neighbors are growing camellias already, you are set to go.
If you don’t have suitable soil, then do what thousands of gardeners do, and grow your camellias in large pots. They thrive for years, you can control the soil, fertilizer and watering easily, and you can move them around for the best light in different seasons. This is much easier than trying to make your soil acidic, as this is difficult, and rarely successful for very long. Use large pots with drainage holes, and a compost blended for acid-loving plants. Once established in the pot, they bloom best if you don’t keep moving them into larger and larger pots. If you live in cooler zones, but have a glassed-in porch, you can bring your plants into there for the winter – they prefer cooler temperatures, but above freezing, between 40 and 50 degrees. Once given the right light and soil, camellias are easy to grow, and they rarely suffer from serious pests or diseases.
The Debutante Camellia is a variety of the Japanese camellia, Camellia japonica. These plants grow in Japan, China and Korea, where they have been treasured for centuries, and many varieties developed from the wild trees. They were brought to America around 1800, and first grown in Charleston, South Carolina, from where they were spread around the south-east. They caused a sensation, and they were soon adopted by the Old South as a symbol of gentility and chivalry. The variety we know today as ‘Debutante’ appeared around 1930 with the name ‘Sara C. Hastie’. Its popularity at balls caused the Fruitland Nursery, a big southern grower, to add the word Debutante to its name, and by 1938 it was being listed just with that name – ‘Debutante’. The older name is still occasionally seen, but the plant is today normally called the Debutante Camellia. This is one of the very best and most desirable of the Japanese camellias, and our camellias always sell very quickly. To enjoy it in your garden, order now.