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Camellia Sasanqua Yields Top Blooms
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The camellia sasanqua is one of the most important species of camellias in the South -- next to the camellia japonica. You've passed up a winner if you haven't planted one in your landscape or at least looked at the latest selections.
The sasanqua is great as a base planting around the home and great for background screens. Under ideal growing conditions, it is not uncommon for a sasanqua to reach almost 15 feet high.
Even if camellias never bloomed, their evergreen foliage would make them worthy of a place in the landscape. The leaves are oval, pointed and slightly toothed along the edges.
Camellias have everything you want in a leaf -- dark green on top, light on the bottom and unusually glossy. They have the feel of polished leather. But they also have thousands of buds that will soon be opening.
The sasanquas have the advantage of blooming about the time of chrysanthemums and continuing through Thanksgiving and into December, depending on the fall and winter.
They come in a range of colors from white to fire engine red. Bonanza deep red, Daydream white edged in deep rose and Yuletide red with yellow stamens are a few of my favorites. Varieties like Maiden's Blush, Pink Snow and Cleopatra are all tried and proven. Even new sasanqua japonica hybrids are worthy of a look. You will be surprised when you visit your nursery.
Sasanquas are more sun tolerant than the camellia japonica and usually will withstand temperatures 10 degrees colder in the winter. In the 1983-84 freezes, the sasanquas survived better than the japonicas. All camellias require acid soil, but sasanquas tolerate greater extremes in moisture than will most japonicas.
I've noticed more sasanquas around older houses. New homes seem sadly void without sasanquas and camellia japonicas.
Shrubs like the camellia are the real foundation of the landscape. They create a backdrop, lead us toward a path or contrast the color of the perennial border or drift of annuals.
We are entering the best time for planting woody shrubs and trees. By planting woody ornamentals as soon as possible in the fall, root growth will increase dramatically before next spring.
Even though top growth may have ceased, roots continue to develop in the cooler 40 to 50 degree days. When new leaf growth begins in the spring, the root system will already be established and able to supply the plant's requirements.
Research indicates that planting now will give your plants almost a full growing season's advantage over those planted next spring.
One thing I try to stress is to put not only camellias, but all shrubs in a bed. Just as we prepare a bed to sleep in at night, we must prepare a bed for the life of our shrubs.
Fall is also a great time to purchase trees and shrubs because local nurseries and garden centers have a wide selection available. Their sales staff are not as rushed as they are in the spring.
Don't overlook camellia sasanquas, as they have long been the symbol of the South. Plant some this fall and your camellias will be well rooted and off to a great start come spring.