La Peppermint CamelliaCamellia japonica 'La Peppermint'
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Camellia japonica 'La Peppermint'
Outdoor Growing zone
La Peppermint Camellia is a unique plant where every bloom is different. The basic form is a neat ‘formal’ bloom of white to very pale pink, but each petal has a carmine-red stripe down the center, which varies in width. Some flowers have additional spots of red, and some have large parts of the flower in red – a surprise in every bud. This plant has exceptional upright growth and beautiful foliage, growing up to 10 feet tall in time. It is perfect in garden beds, as a screen, or in pots, which can come indoors in winter if you live in a cold zone.
Partial shade, with morning sun and afternoon shade, is perfect for La Peppermint Camellia. It will also grow in dappled shade and on the north side of a building. The soil should be moist, rich and well-drained, with an acidic pH below 6.5. If you don’t have suitable soil, grow it in a pot using potting soil blended for acid-loving plants. Pests or diseases are rare and pruning is normally never needed.
Remember those peppermint sticks of your childhood, or the candy canes of Christmas? Well, with La Peppermint Camellia blooms you recapture that look exactly. Each elegant blossom is a cool white, and each petal has a thin stripe of candy-pink down its center, conjuring up exactly those peppermint candies, and making a gorgeous bloom. This full, rounded bush can become 8 feet tall and wide in time, and it is especially fascinating because no two blooms are identical, and some are occasionally almost solid pink, or half-and-half. It blooms very early, often over the Christmas season, so you can use it to decorate a party table. Out in the garden, or in a pot, you will love this unique bush, which was created in the American home of camellias – Mobile, Alabama – getting on for 100 years ago.
La Peppermint Camellia is an upright evergreen shrub that develops into a broad plant between 6 and 10 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide. The growth is dense and solid, and the foliage is very attractive, densely packed on the stems. The leaves are leathery, with a smooth, glossy surface and a beautiful dark-green color. They are 3 to 4 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. In summer you will see the first of the flower buds, which are tiny and round. They slowly expand through fall into large, fat buds full of promise, towards the ends of the branches. Depending on your zone flowers may begin to open in December and this early camellia will brighten the shortest days of the year. In colder areas flowering may begin in January or in very early spring.
The flowers are a generous 3 to 4 inches across, with about 50 petals arranged in a neat, rose-like circle. The basic color varies from pure white to the palest possible pink and each petal has a stripe of carmine red down the center. Each flower is different – sometimes subtle, with differences in the width of the red stripe; sometimes striking, with whole parts of the flower red, so every bud opening brings a surprise – but always a good one.
You can grow this bush in shrub beds, along a fence, around your home between windows, or as a hedge or screen. It makes a lovely specimen on a lawn, or planted in a more natural setting among trees. Plant it where the flowers can be seen during winter, such as beside a door, or outside a window. In pots it can decorate a terrace or patio, and even be grown on a balcony if you have no garden.
La Peppermint Camellia will grow outdoors from zone 7 on into all of zone 10. It tolerates winter lows down to zero degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, if you grow it in a pot you can bring it into a cool, well-lit place for winter, and then it can be grown anywhere in the country.
Partial shade is best for La Peppermint Camellia, with some morning sun and afternoon shade being ideal. Too much sun will turn the leaves yellow, and too little will reduce flowering. It will grow well on the north side of a building, or in dappled shade beneath deciduous trees. The soil should be rich and moist but not wet and soggy – drainage is important. The soil needs to be acidic, with a pH value of no more than 6.5, and preferably lower. It is rarely practical to reduce the pH of your soil by more than a very little amount, so if your soil is not suitable, the answer is simple – grow your plant in a pot.
La Peppermint Camellia will grow well in a tub or planter box for years. Make sure it has drainage holes, and fill it with potting soil blended for acid-loving plants. Keep the soil moist, watering when the top starts to dry a little, and feed regularly in spring and early summer with a liquid camellia fertilizer. Although this bush will take frost, if you live in a colder zone it is better to bring it indoors when night temperatures start to reach 40 to 45 degrees. Place it in a cool, well-lit spot until night temperatures return to about 50 degrees, then return it outdoors.
Serious pests or diseases are rare in camellias, if you have suitable light, soil and moisture levels. This dense bush rarely if ever needs pruning, although it can be trimmed up when young to develop a short trunk, if you wish. If you do need to prune, do this immediately after flowering, and don’t trim the summer stems.
The Japanese camellia, Camellia japonica, became instantly popular as soon as it was introduced into America from Japan sometime before 1800. Alabama, and Mobile in particular, was always a center for camellias, and it was made the state flower in 1959, after pressure from amateur growers and camellia lovers. Back in 1915 Robert O. Rubel Jr. moved to the Mobile area from Kentucky, and the young man started a camellia and azalea nursery he called Longview. He wasn’t happy with the sloppy naming of camellia plants by local nurseries, and he devoted many years to cataloguing and tracking down the correct names of many local varieties. When he wasn’t doing that, and caring for his nursery, he was breeding plants, and he is still remembered with affection by Mobile gardeners today. Among the blooms he created was one he called ‘La Peppermint’. It was officially released in 1934 in a price list he called Winter Flowering Novelties for Florists. It is sometimes incorrectly called ‘Brilliant Variegated’, and despite Robert’s passion for correct naming, ‘La Peppermint’ is a name sometimes given to similar-looking varieties that originated in Europe.
This unique camellia, with every flower different, is a great plant to grow and enjoy. Classic varieties like this can be hard to find, so order now, because our stock is limited and will sell out fast.