Growing camellias in the Southern Appalachian region (USDA zone 6-a) is no longer a dream. As many as 40 cultivars of winter hardy camellias to -15 °F are now available. Flower colors range from white, many shades from pink, and red. Hardy cultivars possess big bloom size, long flowering period (fall or spring), and lustrous evergreen foliage.
Start with these outstanding cultivars. For spring blooming, plant ‘Pink Icicle’ (pink semi-double), ‘April Tryst’ (dark red anemone) and ‘April Remembered’ (pink semi-double). Dependable in the fall garden are ‘Winter’s Star’ (pale pink single) and ‘Winter’s Interlude’ (pink anemone).
The culture of camellias is similar to azaleas, rhododendrons and hollies. Plant them on the east or north side of your home or nearby large shade trees, protected from direct summer sunlight and drying winter winds.
Add generous amounts of organic compost, leaf mold or sphagnum peat to maintain an acidic soil pH. Feed shrubs every two months in spring and summer, using either water-soluble Miracle Gro™ or Schultz™ brand fertilizer.
Established shrubs are very drought tolerant after two years, needing water when rainfall is very low. Camellias enjoy relief from most pest problems that plague them further south.