Story by Clara A. Curtis
Many Southern gardeners may have had their fill of camellias, but not this gardening gal. When I spied this winter-hardy camellia hybrid with red flowers, I was set on having a specimen plant in my entry garden. Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ is hardy in my Zone 6 garden in partly shaded conditions combined with Leucothoe ground cover, another acid-loving plant. I have learned to keep the ground cover from encroaching on the camellia, as this reduces vigor and flower bud set. In late fall, numerous flower buds form and will develop into flowers if the plant is kept evenly watered during bud set. Recent dry fall conditions have reduced the number of winter flowers that are held smartly by glossy dark evergreen leaves. Drying winds will also damage the foliage. Another selection named ‘Pink Yuletide’ is a fragrant pink-flowering form.
Cultivated for centuries in Asia, sasanqua camellias were introduced to England by 1739. Camellia plants came to America in the mid 1800s and were said to have been planted to attract people to the Elysian Fields, a baseball park and club in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: ‘Yuletide’ camellia
Botanical Name: Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’
Color: Leaves are glossy dark green, flowers are bright red with golden yellow centers; 3 inches in diameter.
Blooming Period: Fall through winter, especially beautiful during the holidays.
Type: Woody shrub
Size: Height, 8-10 feet with a slightly smaller spread.
Exposure: Dappled shade.
USDA Hardiness Zone(s): 7-10
When to Plant: Spring; if transplanting, do so in fall.
Soil: Acidic, well-drained, rich in humus
Watering: Water well to settle and then weekly to establish. Grows best in soils with even moisture but will withstand moderate drought. Mulch to maintain consistent soil moisture.
When to Prune: This plant can be clipped into a hedge or left to grow into its natural form. The best time to prune is after flowering in very early spring.
When to Fertilize: At planting and then annually with organic acidic fertilizers.
In Your Landscape: This shrub may be used as a specimen, hedge, or espalier. If planted as a hedge, space plants at a minimum of 5 feet apart. Monitor for aphids, scale, and vine weevils.