Cold-hardy camellias

If you’ve ever pined for camellias well, pine no more. New cultivars have arrived in Western North Carolina and they are tough, cold resistant and dazzling.

Local nursery BB Barnes held a seminar one recent Saturday, and I went to check it out. I associate camellias with warmer climes in the Deep South, where it blooms in late winter. But the flowering tree is an Asian native that’s related to the tea plant (C. sinensis), and there are cold-hardy varieties, I learned at the seminar. With names like April Tryst, Pink Icicle, Snow Flurry and Carolina Moonmist, my desire to plant this winter-blooming was well whetted. All total, 60 varieties of camellias have been identified that tolerate the zone 6 mountain climate here in the Asheville area.

To ensure the greatest success, follow these cultural instructions.

When to plant: Camellias should be planted by mid-June to establish good roots while soil is still warm.

Location: Protect from wind and place in filtered bright light. Afternoon sun is preferred over morning sun, avoiding direct, hot sun. Note: deep shade will not produce blooms.

Planting Instructions: Camellias need excellent drainage, add small gravel to the soil if needed for better aeration (do not add peat moss). Similar to rhododendrons, they need to be planted a little higher, pot height or more and plant 6” on both sides of pot.

Fertilization: Camellias like acid, so try Holly tone to improve acid levels and stop fertilizing in late June to allow plants to harden off prior to winter.

Winter care: Wilt proof is recommended for first year plants to avoid dessciation, and in winters when severe weather is expected.
Finally, these camellias are good for Asheville proper, which is zone 6, and 2,400 ft in elevation. Planting them above 2,600 ft in elevation is not recommended.

To find out more visit BB Barnes or go to


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