Test your soil if you want camellia blooms

Published 9:31pm Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Well, the groundhog predicts we’ll have an early spring.

I’m so glad we live this far south, and are not dealing with all the snow, slush and ice.

Another reason I’m glad to live this far south is we can do outside chores and gardening throughout the year and planting new shrubs and trees outside now is great.

Soon our state flower, the camellia, will be blooming. These are called camellia japonicas. This large shrub can grow as tall as 15 feet. They have very large blooms and come in many colors. They usually bloom about late February to late March.

Its little cousin is called sasanqua camellias. They have small blooms in clusters and bloom in the fall, usually around November.

There have been some new hybrids in the last few years that are a cross of both. They are called camellia sinensis.

Camellias are akin to the tea plant from China.

Don’t worry about remembering all this. I’m like you. I just love the blooms.

Camellias are grown much like azaleas; they like an acid soil that is well drained with part sunshine. So before you purchase one, find a good location with good soil.

Most of north and west Selma is prairie soil, which won’t work. If you live in Valley Grande and have red clay, you can grow one if the soil is amended.

Once established, camellias are quite low maintenance.

Droughts reduce flower bud set and growth but rarely kill camellias. A light fertilizing in the spring will keep it growing and green.

The main pest of camellias is the tea scale. This little insect is white and attaches itself to the underside of leaves and sucks the juices out. It doesn’t kill the shrub but discolors and weakens it.

Go ahead and try one or two. Bringing in a large bouquet of flowers when it’s still cool outside is just one more reason to try camellias.

If I didn’t say it loud enough earlier, I’m lucky to live this far south!

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