Stewartia is an ornamental tree that can provide outstanding four season interest, flowers, foliage, and bark, for almost every landscape today on Southern Gardening.
Stewartia are in the small to medium tree category with a bushy to pyramidal habit depending on the species. Most commonly seen in the 15 to 20 feet range, but they can reach up to 40 feet tall.
The flowers are produced in profuse numbers. The broadly cupped, 2 inch diameter flowers have white petals, white filaments, and orange stamens are produced in mid-summer.
The bark is exfoliating with its peeling and flaky tendencies. The trunks develop a sinewy, muscled character that only gets better with age. Often multiple trunks are produced and only add to the ornamental character.
The summer foliage is dark glossy green that gives way to the fall the foliage turning brilliant shades ranging from orange, dark red to purple. This colorful foliage has been described as being flashy in the coloration.
There are three species most commonly available. Japanese Stewartia, Stewartia psuedocamellia, is probably the most ornamental, followed by Korean Stewartia, Stewartia koreana. There is a native Mountain Stewartia, Stewartia ovate, which found in the Appalachian area of the southeast.
Stewartia does not like to be transplanted, so choose the planting site very carefully. The ideal site for any zone would be with full morning sun and partial shade in the afternoon.
Stewartia should not be hidden in an obscure back corner of the landscape. Plant Stewartia where it can be seen and enjoyed.
I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.