Camellias and azaleas provide winter color to our gardens

According to Sherman Library & Gardens’ Horticulture Manager Erin Aguilar, camellias and azaleas are “a classic winter pairing, prized for their color and long blooming season.”

If you want to enjoy vivid color throughout the winter months, here are Aguilar’s tips:

–Azaleas and camellias all prefer three to four hours of direct sunlight in order to grow densely and bloom reliably. None can tolerate eight to 10 hours of full sun.

Camellias and azaleas Camellia Yume

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Photos courtesy of Sherman Library & Gardens

Camellia “Yume”

–Azaleas and camellias prefer well-drained soils that are slightly acid and humus-rich. If you’re not sure how well your soil drains, dig a hole about a foot deep and fill it with water. Let it drain, and fill it again. If the water stays at the same level for several hours the second time, your soil has poor drainage. Conversely, the faster it drains the more drainage your soil has.

–The best time to choose a specific variety is while it’s actually bearing flowers. You’ll be assured you’re getting the ones you want.

–Be sure to consider their sizes when deciding where to plant. Azaleas can grow approximately five feet by four feet, while camellias can grow to about six feet by four feet for sasanqua (small-leaved) types and 12 feet by six feet for japonica (large-leaved) types.

Camellias and azaleas Camellia Izumi

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Camellia “Izumi”

–Choose an area with semi shade; morning or evening sun is ideal. Too much sunlight can cause sunburn damage.

–Dig a planting hole one-and-one-half times as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.

–Amend the soil by mixing it with one-half acid-type camellia-azalea planting mix, leaf mold, or compost.

–Plant camellias and azaleas with their root balls one to one-and-one-half inches above the surrounding soil, as their trunks cannot stand soil collecting around them.

–Both flowers need regular and deep watering, but do not overwater.

–Camellia blooms need to be picked up once they hit the ground so diseases and fungi cannot spread. Unattended fallen blooms can cause petal blight, which will brown, discolor and rot blooms.

–Petal blight can also occur with azaleas. Remove dead and brown blossoms as they appear.

Camellias and azaleas azalea hybrid

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Azalea hybrid

Scott Le Fleur, Gardens Director at Sherman Library & Gardens also shared some advice on these two winter blooms. “My best tip for healthy camellias all year long is organic mulch and deep watering. No mulch and frequent surface water will make the roots stay close to the surface more prone to drying out (this is where the mulch helps). Deep watering can be measured using a soil corer. A very handy tool not only for camellias and azaleas, but your whole garden.”

Camellias and azaleas soil corer

This soil corer measures deep watering

Sherman Library & Gardens’ collection of camellias and azaleas is located around the Central Garden and Tea Garden planted in the ground and in containers. It is located at 2647 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar.

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