If you could have a plant which was easy to grow, evergreen, looked healthy all year, grew in shade and was covered in large, colorful flowers during the darkest days of winter, surely that would be something you would love. Well the Yuletide Camellia is that plant. It grows into a dense, evergreen bush with beautiful glossy foliage and every winter it will be covered in bright red flowers, just as the Christmas season is getting under way. It will continue to flower for most of the winter.
Not only is this plant beautiful in winter but it makes a handsome green shrub in summer too and will grow in the shade of trees as well as in full sun as long as the soil does not get too dry. It has no significant pests or diseases, need no pruning and lives for years and years, getting bigger and better every year. This is a ‘must have’ plant that is on the top of every wise gardeners list and now you can have it too.
Growing Yuletide Camellias
The Yuletide Camellia grows from zone 7 into zone 10, so in all the warmer parts of the country it can be grown right in the garden. In cooler areas it grows well as a porch plant and as it will tolerate quite a bit of frost, if you have a slightly protected place during the coldest periods you can grow this plant almost anywhere in the country. Even small plants will be covered in blooms, so it is an ideal container plant.
It is also worth mentioning that Camellias make great companion plants for the Conversation Piece Azalea, the Nikko Blue Hydrangea, Weeping Japanese Maples and other similar plants that thrive in the light shade of large trees. Shade is always a problem area in the garden but with these plants you can transform those drab shady areas into beds of flowers all year round.
Flowering and Appearance
Your Yuletide Camellia will form a dense bushy, upright plant reaching 6 feet or more in height. Its small leaves are a little less than 2 inches long and an inch wide. They are glossy with a deep, rich green color, making the plant very handsome even when not flowering. The flowers are 3 inches across with 7 broad petals in a beautiful, rich Christmas-red color. In the center of the flower the bright yellow pollen-parts make a bold contrast and create a cheerful flower that is especially welcome at Christmas time.
Your bush will begin blooming within a year or two and each fall you will see it covered in fat flower buds just waiting to burst into bloom. Depending on where you live, flowering can begin in October but almost always occurs before Christmas and continues through much of the winter.
The Yuletide Camellia grows best in slightly acid soil that does not get too dry. Established plants can tolerate some drought but will do best with regular watering. If your soil is not naturally acidic, dig plenty of peat moss into the planting spot and use a special fertilizer called iron chelates in the spring and fall. The leaves of your Yuletide Camellia should always be a deep, rich green color. If they are even a little pale and yellow you should use the iron chelates to easily correct this.
Planting and Initial Care
To plant your Yuletide Camellia dig a hole two or three times the width of the pot in soil that you have dug over and added plenty of peat moss to. Place the plant in the hole at the same depth as it was in the pot and water well after replacing the soil. Mulch around the roots with peat moss and replace this mulch each spring, after feeding your bush with a fertilizer for other acid-loving plants like azaleas.
Growing in Pots and Containers
To grow your plant in a container choose a pot at least two inches wider than the pot it is in and make sure your pot has drainage holes. Fill it with potting soil for acid-loving plants and keep it well watered. Let the soil dry a little between each watering and use a liquid fertilizer for acid-loving plants every two weeks during spring and summer. Never let the plant get completely dry. Keep your pot in a spot protected from afternoon sun during the summer and in a cool, well-lit porch during the coldest months. Plants in pots should not be exposed to temperatures below 100F.
History and Origins of the Yuletide Camellia
Camellias have been grown for centuries in Japan and when Dutch traders brought plants to Europe in the 19th century gardeners could not believe that such beautiful plants as these could be grown outdoors, so they grew them only in greenhouses. Eventually it was discovered that not only were these fabulous plants hardy down to 00F but they were actually very easy to grow in ordinary garden conditions.
Many different varieties have been produced by gardeners over the years, and the Yuletide Camellia is a seedling that was discovered growing in a nursery in California in 1959. Since that first discovery the Yuletide Camellia has become a real favorite for its brilliant red flowers at the festive season.
The Yuletide Camellia is such a special plant that only the exact plant will have the right flower color and bloom at the right time. So it must be produced directly from specimens absolutely known to be the correct form. Our Camellias are grown the correct way, from branch cuttings of this special variety, so avoid cheaper, seedling plants that will only be a disappointment.