Whether black, green, or Oolong, classic tea comes from the tender young leaves and shoots of the ‘tea Camellia’, Camellia sinensis. This evergreen shrub comes in a wide array of varietals whose flavors are considered unique to the area in which they’re grown. Native to Asia, it’s an easy-care plant that asks little in the garden–and like its heavy-blooming cousins commonly grown for ornament, it’s well-suited to shady spots in the DFW area.
NHG brings in a collection of camellia varieties each fall and spring, depending on when they bloom and transplant best. We get a small number of small-leaf tea camellias, and this year, just a precious few large-leaf tea camellias. Additionally, we have a wide variety of camellias grown for their structure and flowers, including unusual varieties such as the buttercream-colored ‘Jury’s Yellow.’
Camellias form glossy, deep-green leaves and are evergreen in north Texas–this means they provide important garden structure for shady areas where few evergreens will thrive well. Since they’re cool-season bloomers, they’re further valued for bringing charm and color to our colder months, as most varieties sport large, luxurious flowers in shades of white, red and pink.
With our heavy clay soils, camellias perform best if their soil is amended deeply with acidified compost prior to planting. If your site suffers from poor drainage, consider adding expanded shale or re-grading the site if necessary; while camellias appreciate consistent moisture, they will not tolerate wet feet and boggy conditions.
Protected, shady sites are best; bright, indirect light or dappled light through an overhead tree canopy will be ideal. Once your camellia is established, it will appreciate a regular monthly feeding of a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants, such as Espoma Holly-Tone. Other than that, keeping them mulched and topdressing with acidified compost now and then is all they’ll ask in return for their bountiful blooms.
Within our wide selection, there are camellias that stay fairly small and others that can get very large. We recommend doing research in advance if there’s a specific variety you’re looking for and calling the store to see that it’s in when you’re planning to come. Better yet, visit us and speak with a Garden Advisor for an introduction to the full collection, where colors, forms and varieties can be found to suit any garden location.
Consider adding a camellia–whether for blossoms, tea or both–to your garden this year. Get here soon, though–they go very quickly!