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Camellia sasanqua ‘White Doves’ (photo courtesy of Kimberley Navabpour)
Camellia sasanqua ‘White Doves’ (photo courtesy of Kimberley Navabpour)

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Zone
Zones 4-9, 12, 14-24, H1
Partial Sun
Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Camellia reticulata ‘Mandalay Queen’

Theaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs, Flowers

CAMELLIA

Camellias grow over a wider latitude range along the West Coast than anywhere else. Typically loaded with white, pink, red, or variegated blooms during the cool season, many of these robust shrubs flower heavily when other bloom is scarce. Native to southern and eastern Asia, they are unscented except as noted.

Big C. japonica varieties are the most popular, with fall- and winter-flowering C. sasanqua varieties coming in second. All are classic understory shrubs that thrive in filtered shade. They also grow well in pots.

There are six camellia forms: Anemone, formal double, peony, rose-form double, single, and semidouble.

Camellia reticulata

Some of the biggest and most spectacular camellia flowers occur in this species, and likely as not they appear on some of the lankiest and least graceful plants. Plants differ somewhat according to variety, but generally are rather gaunt and open shrubs that eventually become trees of considerable size—possibly 35–50 ft. tall. In gardens, consider them 10-ft.-tall shrubs, 8 ft. wide. Leaves are also variable but tend to be dull green, leathery, and strongly net veined.

Culture is quite similar to that of other camellias, except that plants seem intolerant of heavy pruning. This, in addition to their natural lankiness and size, makes them difficult to place in the garden. They are at their best in the light shade of old oaks, where they should stand alone with plenty of room to develop. They are good container subjects while young but are not handsome out of bloom. They develop better form and heavier foliage in open ground. In Zones 4–6, grow them in containers so you can move them into winter protection, or plant beneath an overhang or near a wall.

Best-known varieties have very large semidouble flowers with deeply fluted and curled inner petals. These inner petals give great depth to the flower. All bloom midwinter to early spring.

‘Mandalay Queen’

‘Mandalay Queen’ has very large semidouble pink flowers with fluted petals.

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