by Kathy Warner

My Nassau Sun Logo Nassau County Master Gardener

Special/Nassau County Extension --

Feeling the winter blues? Gazing at your garden wistfully wishing for the bright colors of summer? Add beauty to your landscape with camellias - the Southern belle of winter.
Camellias put on a show in the fall and winter when their display of colorful blooms is most appreciated. During the remainder of the year, their evergreen foliage, interesting shapes and textures, and relatively slow growth make camellias excellent landscape plants.
Camellias have been a part of the Southern landscape for almost 200 years. They are native to the Orient and were introduced into the U.S. near Charleston, S.C., in 1786. The camellia is so beloved in the South. It was declared the Alabama state flower in 1959. The common name camellia refers to varieties and hybrids of nearly 100 known species of camellia.
The climatic conditions of North Florida are well suited for many camellia varieties. Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua are two of the most popular in local markets. Sasanquas grow faster than japonicas and can tolerate more sun. Both are salt tolerant enough to be grown near the coast.
Camellias that bloom in mid-season from November through January are best suited for Florida conditions. Your local nursery can advise you about varieties and blooming dates. Warm fall temperatures may prevent early varieties from flowering properly. Late-blooming selections may produce new growth before the end of the flowering period which results in "bullnoses."
Bullnoses are poor quality flowers which do not open fully and may even drop while still tight buds. There is no chemical to correct this problem (right plant/right place) except to select a more appropriate camellia.
Plant them together in groupings to be used as foundation plantings, screens, accent plants and hedges. Camellias thrive in partially shaded locations enhanced by good water drainage and air movement. Fertile, low acid soils high in organic matter are preferred. Camellias do not like wet feet and are sensitive to root rot, so plant high. Camellias have shallow roots so do not plant ground covers nearby.
Camellias enjoy a gentle cool breeze, but should be protected from icy winter winds. Avoid morning sun in the winter. Plantings under pine trees or on the north or west side of buildings are ideal because the plants can gradually thaw or warm in the morning before being exposed to direct sunlight.
After planting, add a two-inch layer of mulch, keeping it away from the stems. Water every other day until established, then once a week during summer unless it rains. Fertilize three times a year in February, June and October with an acid-loving fertilizer.
Take care of your camellias, and take care of yourself. You just might be enjoying their winter blooms for the next 100 years.


Master Gardener volunteers are trained by County Horticultural Extension agents and are required to serve 75 volunteer hours in year one of their accreditation and 50 volunteer hours annually in all subsequent years to maintain their certification.

Nassau County master gardeners serve under the direction of Rebecca L. Jordi, UF/IFAS Nassau County Horticultural Extension Agent. For information on the master gardener program and application requirements, contact Jordi at 548-1116 or



Kathy Warner

Kathy Warner is an Amelia Island resident and an active master gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.