- Type Evergreen shrub or tree
- Lifespan Long-lived perennial
- USDA Zones 6-10
- Light Afternoon shade
- Water Well-drained soil
- When to Plant Fall or spring
- Design Tip Late bloomer
- Colors Pink, white, red
- Peak Season Fall or winter
Camellias: A Field Guide
Camellias are for collectors. A camellia grew beneath the bedroom window of Eudora Welty in Jackson, Mississippi and altogether the writer grew three dozen varieties of her favorite shrub in the garden she inherited from her mother and tended all her life.
A favorite flowering shrub throughout the American South, camellias are native to Asia and closely associated with gardens in Japanese (and Japanese-style gardens elsewhere). Camellias have two main species—C. japonica and C. sasanqua—and more than 3,000 varieties. Camellias range in size from evergreen shrubs to small trees, blooming in autumn or winter in shades of pink, red, white—and candy stripes (typically described as peppermint camellias).
In Welty’s novel The Optimist’s Daughter, a passage describes the southern custom of planting a flowering shrub on a grave: “Laurel’s eye travelled among the urns that marked the graves of the McKelvas and saw the favorite camellia of her father’s, the old-fashioned Chandlerii Elegans, that he had planted on her mother’s grave—big now as a pony, saddled with unplucked bloom living and dead, standing on a fading carpet of its own flowers.”
See more of Welty’s camellias in A Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty at Home in Mississippi.