The name derives from the Jesuit G.J Kamel who brought the Camellia plant from Japan to Europe in the 17th century.
The persistent leaves of the camellia are dark green and have an elegantly shiny appearance. Flowering begins in February and produces, in the cold months of the year, numerous flowers that have a large shape but of different appearance depending on the species. Some have a single flower, others a semi-double, a peony, anemone and other forms.
The most widespread species are the japonica and the sasanqua. The first flowers from January until spring, the second has less showy flowers that bloom between December and January.
Today there are several hybrids but the main colors of the flowers are white or pink, more rare than those with yellow or red flowers.
A characteristic of the camellia is that it alternates years in which it produces magnificent blooms and years in which, on the contrary, they are much poorer. They have a very long life and therefore over time they can become very large trees, even up to six meters high.
Of curious to know is that the plant of the tea is the Camelia sinensis and that from the seeds of camellia it is possible to obtain an oil to be used in the kitchen and in cosmetics. In Italy the first camellia plants arrived around the years 1820-1830 and the Camelia sinensis is cultivated only near Lake Maggiore and only for ornamental purposes.
They can be cultivated directly on the ground, especially in areas where the climate is temperate, but also in pots, so that in the seasons with more rigid temperatures, they can be moved to shelter.
ENVIRONMENT AND SUBSTRATE
This plant does not fear the cold and can withstand low temperatures. It resists very well even at temperatures below zero but does not bear the snow on the leaves that could burn them.
The ideal place to place a camellia is a shady but bright place; it must be exposed to direct sunlight during the hours of the day when temperatures are mildest.
It is good practice to repair it from excessive winds, indeed during the coldest months, at the beginning of the year, it would not be inconvenient to cover the plant with non-woven fabrics, to prevent the cold from ruining flowers and buds.
The ideal soil for camellia plants must be acidic, not calcareous and rich in humus, and it is also advisable to mix some soil with leaves. If the plants are on the ground, it will be sufficient to place dry leaves on the ground which will decompose on their own.
To prevent the soil ph from rising excessively, peat may also be added.
Camellias in pots must be repotted every 3 or 4 years with soil suitable for acdophile plants.
WATERING AND FERTILIZATION
The land in which the camellias must be kept must be kept constantly humid. Especially during the summer the watering must be particularly abundant, indeed it would also be advisable to spray water directly on the leaves.
From the end of September, on the other hand, they will be reduced so that the plant can form floral buttons.
They do not tolerate long periods of drought, therefore, especially for potted specimens, it is necessary to check that the soil does not dry too much. Even during the winter months, if the plant is outside, the icy wind could dry out the soil, so it is always useful to check its humidity.
They do not need special fertilizers. The species grown in pots, usually, are those with early flowering so in May it is sufficient to move them to the open air, in a shaded and windless area. With the arrival of cold, around October, they must be returned indoors, or at least sheltered in a veranda or greenhouse, at a temperature of no more than seven degrees, and this until the arrival of spring.
If you want to put them on the ground in a garden, it will be advisable to carry out this operation in March or September and cover the surrounding soil with straw or dry leaves so that it can remain constantly humid and so that no parasitic plants are born nearby.
PRUNING AND DISEASES
This type of plant does not need significant pruning. It will be enough to remove the dry branches in autumn and after flowering remove the withered flowers and maybe some branches to make the foliage more regular.
Eventually if you see that your plant is too full of buds, you can remove some of them so that they have more space and that the flowers grow larger.
Camellias can be attacked by aphids and scale insects. If this happens, it will be immediately evident at first glance because brown spots will appear on the leaves and will also become slightly sticky. To remedy the damage specific insecticides are needed.
The plant can get sick even if the soil in which it is found is too limestone, at this point small spots will appear on the leaves.
Finally it is important to remember that, although camellia can withstand cold temperatures, it cannot tolerate snow or frost. Snow and frost cause burns on leaves, flowers and buds, seriously compromising the whole plant.