Camellia japonica is the
Queen of Winter/Spring
Blooming Shrubs

The Camellia japonica, or Japanese camellia, is one of the loveliest shrubs in the winter-to-spring garden in the milder areas of the country. Blooms of white, blush pink, deep pink, red and variegated cultivars--even a few yellows--in forms that resemble roses or peonies, have gardeners wanting "just one more" to add to their collections. Picking up where Camellia sasanqua leaves off, and depending on choice of cultivar, you can feature the "rose of winter" in your garden from late fall to mid-spring.

Though hardy in Zones 7-9, cold winter winds and freezing temperatures, even in the Atlanta area, for instance, can freeze buds and turn flowers brown. If you want to give one a try north of Zone 7, pick a late blooming variety, plant it in a sheltered location and mulch well. Many Northern gardeners, avid to grow camellias, depend on greenhouses to nurture these plants.

Fragrant Camellias

These evergreen shrubs have gorgeous flowers and look like they should be as fragrant as a rose, but most lack scent; however hybridizers have been working to develop fragrant camellias. There are lovely ones out there that are worth seeking.

A few scented hybrids of Camellia japonica:

Ack-Scent--shell pink, peony form

Camellia japonica 'Ack-Scent'Camellia japonica 'Ack-Scent'

Cinnamon Cindy--whitish center to rose pink at the outer petals, double

Cinnamon Scentsation--apple blossom to pale pink, single

Camellia 'Cinnamon Scentsation'Camellia 'Cinnamon Scentsation'

Colonial Lady--pale pink streaked and flecked with deeper pink, semidouble

Fragrant Pink--deep pink ruffled small blooms, peony form.  Hybrid.

Camellia x 'Fragrant Pink'Camellia x 'Fragrant Pink'

Herme--deep pink with lighter border, semi-double.  Also known as  'Hikarugenji' which means "Brilliant Gem."

Camellia japonica 'Herme'Camellia japonica 'Herme'

High Fragrance--pale to deeper pink, peony form

Kramer's Supreme--red, peony form

Camellia japonica 'Kramer's Supreme'Camellia japonica 'Kramer's Supreme'

Scentsation--deep pink, double form

Scentuous--white flushed with pink, semi-double

Sweet Emily Kate--pink, peony form, low spreading growth habit

Some favorite Camellia japonica cultivars

'Alba Plena.' This is an old variety originating in China in 1792. Pure white, double formal shape. Picture taken at Massee Lane Gardens in Ft. Valley, GA.

Camellia japonica 'Alba Plena'Camellia japonica 'Alba Plena'

'Barbara Morgan.'  Bright red with large, ruffled petals.

Camellia japonica 'Barbara Morgan'Camellia japonica 'Barbara Morgan'

'Carter's Sunburst.' Pale pink with darker pink striping. Semi-double to peony form.

Camellia japonica 'Carter's Sunburst'Camellia japonica 'Carter's Sunburst'

'Dr. Tinsley.' Pale pink shading to deeper pink at edges. Semi-double with puckered petals and formal brush-like cluster of stamens.

Camellia japonica 'Dr. Tinsley'Camellia japonica 'Dr. Tinsley'

'Governor Mouton.' Variegated red, white and pink. Semi-double or peony shape.

Camellia japonica 'Governor Mouton'Camellia japonica 'Governor Mouton'

'Grace Albritton.' Small pale pink blooms suffused with deeper pink at edges. Formal double shape.

Camellia japonica 'Grace Albritton'Camellia japonica 'Grace Albritton'

'Guilio Nuccio Variegated.' Variegated red and white. Semi-double.  Reminds me of flame-stitch fabric.

Camellia japonica 'Guilio Nuccio Variegated'Camellia japonica 'Guilio Nuccio Variegated'

'Jacks.'  Formal double, pink.

Camellia japonica 'Jacks'Camellia japonica 'Jacks'

'Jan's Chance.'  Variegated rose and white.

Camellia japonica 'Jan's Chance'Camellia japonica 'Jan's Chance'

'Lady Clare.' Deep pink semi-double.

Camellia japonica 'Lady Clare'Camellia japonica 'Lady Clare'

'La Peppermint.' White with pale pink to deep pink striping. Rose form.

Camellia japonica 'La Peppermint'Camellia japonica 'La Peppermint'

'Magnoliaeflora.' Blush pink. Formal semi-double shape.

Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'

'Night Rider,'  This very dark red, near black hybrid is an eye-catcher.  The small semi-double blooms sport thick, waxy petals and reddish stamens.

'Nuccio's Cameo.'  A formal double bloom with pink to
coral shades.

Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Cameo'Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Cameo'

'Shiro Chan.' A pure white anemone type with a fluffy tuft of smaller petals in the center around the yellow stamens. Sometimes shows a bit of pink at the base.

Camellia japonica 'Shiro Chan'Camellia japonica 'Shiro Chan'

'Unryu.'  An interesting variety with small single blooms of reddish-pink with hints of mauve.  The name means "dragon in the clouds" referring to the twisted shapes of the stems.

Camellia japonica 'Unryu'Camellia japonica 'Unryu'

'W. C. Wyatt.' Pink. Large semi-double form, ruffled petals.

Camellia japonica 'W. C. Wyatt'Camellia japonica 'W. C. Wyatt'

C. vernalis 'Star-Above-Star.' White flushed with pale pink. Semi-double layered look.

Camellia vernalis 'Star-Above-Star'Camellia vernalis 'Star-Above-Star'

For more information about Camellia japonica, contact the American Camellia Society at Massee Lane Gardens, Ft. Valley, GA.

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Updated new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map 2023.