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NC State Extension

Camellias for December Color

x Camillia 'Crimson Candles' CamelliaWeb©

x Camillia ‘Crimson Candles’
Camellia Web©

As glorious as Camellia japonica is in the spring, it is just one of many spring-flowering trees and shrubs. The true camellia stars are those that flower during the winter when gardeners are starved for bright colors in the landscape. One of the brightest of those stars is Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide.’ This December-flowering camellia features large bright-red single blooms with contrasting yellow stamens that give an eye-catching focus to the winter landscape. Its glossy green foliage offers the perfect backdrop for its spectacular display. ‘Yuletide’ has an erect, compact growth habit with dense foliage that lends itself well for use as a loose hedge plant or as a focal shrub.

As with other sasanquas, ‘Yuletide’ tolerates drought after it becomes established. Consider its ultimate height of 10 feet and slow growth rate before deciding on an appropriate planting location. It prefers well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 for best growth. It can withstand the sun but does need protection from drying winter winds. One of the most popular winter flowering shrubs, ‘Yuletide’ makes a great addition to any southern garden.

x Camillia 'Crimson Candles'GossettsNursery©

x Camillia ‘Crimson Candles’

Another good choice for winter color is Camellia x ‘Crimson Candles.’ This rapidly-growing hybrid stands out with numerous small rose-red single flowers in February and March. The new foliage is bronze-red, and the plant is vigorous and disease resistant. One of its best features is its sepals, which are red throughout the winter while the buds are maturing. This gives the bud the look of a red candle long before the flowers open, hence the name, ‘Crimson Candles.’ Suited for hedges, espalier, topiary or bonsai, this cultivar can also withstand night temperatures in the 20s and is hardy in USDA zones 7 through 9.

These plants can be seen at the JC Raulston Arboretum along with many other camellias suitable for N.C. landscapes.