Camellias are among the very best and most desirable of evergreen shrubs. They flower over long periods between fall and spring, depending on the variety, and bring lush foliage for structure and background in the garden for the rest of the year. There is one problem though, camellias grow best in warmer areas, and many do not like significant frost, which can destroy the flower buds, even if not the whole plant. At The Tree Center we have customers from all over the country, so we looked for cold-hardy camellias, and we found them. For those who live in zone 6 or 7, or who love a beautiful camellia wherever they garden, we offer you the Pink Icicle Camellia.
Growing Pink Icicle Camellias
The Pink Icicle Camellia is a vigorous evergreen shrub that grows at a moderate pace into an upright shrub that will be 6 to 10 feet tall when mature, and with a diameter of 6 to 8 feet. This bold conical plant has upright branches that are densely covered in large, leathery leaves with a glossy, deep green surface. The leaves are 4 inches long and 2 inches wide, with a rounded, oval shape and small soft serrations along the margins.
In late winter or spring, typically in February, March or April, depending on exactly where you are, the branches of the Pink Icicle Camellia carry many beautiful shell-pink blooms 4½ inches across and 2½ inches deep, made up of about 20 broad, rounded petals forming an open, informal bowl shape. The inner petals are slightly twisted, giving the flower a gentle relaxed look, ideal for any garden style. In the center of the flower is a thick cluster of yellow stamens, partly hidden until the flower fully opens. Camellia flowers each last on the bush for a week or two, and they are produced continuously over several weeks, so your plant will be in bloom for an extended period.
Uses in Your Garden
Grow the Pink Icicle Camellia as a specimen in beds, or as an informal hedge. It looks beautiful growing in a woodland garden, and the conditions there usually suit these plants perfectly. They can be used around the house in foundation plantings, looking almost as beautiful out of flower as they are when blooming. They are also perfect for pots and planter boxes, and they look great in any style of garden, from the most formal layout to an Asian-inspired courtyard or Japanese garden. This plant is completely hardy in zone 7, and it will grow in a sheltered spot in zone 6 too. If you have a cold but bright porch that stays close to freezing in winter, then you can easily bring your camellia in its pot into that space and be successful, no matter where you live.
Camellias are not difficult to grow, in the right conditions. They grow best in partial shade, especially with afternoon shade in hotter regions, and thrive in light shade beneath deciduous trees. They do need acidic soil, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. If you are not sure if you have acid soil, you can do a simple test, or just see if your neighbors are growing camellias. If they are, you can too. Even if you don’t have suitable soil, the Pink Icicle Camellia is an ideal plant to grow in a large pot, where it will grow and mature into a beautiful specimen. Choose a pot with a drainage hole and grow your plant in potting soil for acid-loving plants. Keep to a fertilizer program, using camellia food, and you will have great success with this plant in a pot or planter box.
History and Origins of the Pink Icicle Camellia
Cold resistance has been a goal of camellia breeders for a long time, and at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. Dr. William Ackerman was a plant breeder at the Arboretum, and both when working, and after he retired, he bred camellias to find cold-hardy plants. He used the Chinese tea-oil camellia (Camellia oleifera) which is cultivated as a source of tea-oil, a cooking oil used widely in Asia, and with an oil composition like olive oil. Very often this plant is also much hardier than many other camellias, and using cold-hardy selections of this species, Dr. Ackerman was able to create hybrids with garden camellias that carried the same cold-hardiness.
He bred many plants, but to create the variety he called ‘Pink Icicle’, he took a variety called ‘November Pink’ of the hybrid plant Camellia x williamsii and crossed it with his hardy tea-olive camellias. Camellia x williamsii is itself a hybrid of two other camellias, Camellia japonica and Camellia saluenensis. These hybrid plants were produced in Britain in the 1920s, and they are known for their winter hardiness. Together all these different plants created the outstanding ‘Pink Icicle’ variety, which was first released in 1987. It has stood the test of time and become a great favorite of gardeners who love camellias, everywhere, but especially in colder zones. The demand for this plant is always high, so order now, while our limited stock is still available, because we don’t know when we will be able to find more plants for our inventory.