Various species of camellia brighten our fall, winter and spring landscapes with beautiful flowers. An outstanding Camellia sasanqua cultivar called Leslie Ann has been named a Louisiana Super Plants selection by the LSU AgCenter.
We are so fortunate to be able to grow camellias in our landscapes. These popular evergreen shrubs thrive in the mild winters of the Deep South and are hardy throughout Louisiana. In colder northern climates, camellias are grown in containers and must be sheltered over the winter.
Meet the camellias
When the common name “camellia” is used, it generally refers to Camellia japonica. Camellia cultivars bloom at various times over a long season from late November through April. Flower size can be from a couple of inches up to 7 inches across.
Camellia sasanqua is another commonly grown species. Plants in this species are called “sasanqua” to distinguish them from Camellia japonica. The growth habit of sasanquas is generally bushy when they are young, but as they age, many cultivars will eventually grow into lovely small trees 10 to 15 feet tall.
The foliage is smaller than that of camellias and is a glossy, dark green. The flowers are not as large as the camellia, but they often have a wonderful spicy fragrance. They are produced in great abundance from October through December or January in shades of red, rose, pink and white. The flowers may be single or double.
Two popular low growing camellia cultivars, ShiShi Gashira (another Louisiana Super Plants selection with dark pink, double flowers) and Showa No Sakae, are often called dwarf sasanquas. These plants are actually a different species, however, called Camellia hiemalis.
Leslie Ann sasanqua
Leslie Ann sasanqua is an outstanding cultivar in an exceptional group of plants. Sasanquas fit into just about any landscape and are valuable as specimen plants, small trees, hedges and privacy screens. They can also be grown in large decorative containers.
The foliage of Leslie Ann is typical of sasanquas. The dark green, glossy leaves are good-looking year round and provide an excellent background for the attractive flowers.
The double flowers are about 3 or 4 inches across and are produced over a long season from October through December. The petals are bi-colored – white with a lovely border of rosy pink. Of all the sasanquas, Leslie Ann has one of the most beautiful flowers.
Relatively upright in growth habit, Leslie Ann will mature at about 8 to 10 feet tall and 4 or 5 feet wide. The size and shape make it a versatile plant suitable for a wide variety of landscape uses.
Planting and care
Although these plants are tough and reliable, success with sasanquas depends on the planting site and care provided. Plant these shrubs in well-prepared beds with good drainage, and enrich the soil with generous amounts of compost or composted soil conditioner.
Part sun to part shade is considered ideal. Choose a location that receives four to six hours of direct sun in the morning and some shade in the afternoon, or a spot that receives bright, dappled shade through the day.
Prune to shape the shrubs in spring. Flower buds set by midsummer, so avoid extensive pruning after May. Fertilize in March using an acid-loving-plant fertilizer following label direction.
Beds where the shrubs are growing should be kept mulched to a depth of about 2 inches using materials such as pine straw, ground bark, leaves or other mulches. This will help maintain soil moisture, moderate soil temperatures, reduce weed problems and improve the appearance of the bed.
Camellias are susceptible to an insect pest called tea scale. Symptoms include a white, fuzzy material under the leaves and yellow splotches on the upper surface.
The least toxic, effective insecticides to control tea scale are the horticultural oil sprays. Oil sprays kill insects by coating and suffocating them rather than using toxins. Thorough coverage under the leaves is critical. Brand names include heavier oils like Volck Oil Spray and light oils like Year Round Spray Oil, All Seasons Oil Spray and others. The light horticultural oils are more useful because they can be used all summer.
Louisiana Super Plant program
Louisiana Super Plants are tough and beautiful plants that perform well in Louisiana landscapes. Louisiana Super Plants selections possess a proven track record having gone through several years of university evaluations and/or years of observations by horticulture industry professionals.
Home gardeners and professional landscape horticulturists can plant Louisiana Super Plants with confidence because of their reliable performance around the state. Louisiana Super Plants are “university tested and industry approved.” For more information on Louisiana Super Plants, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/superplants.
Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. He can be reached at DGill@agcenter.lsu.edu.