Camellia japonica is a large evergreen shrub with large, thick, glossy leaves. They produce prominent flowers 2 inches or more in diameter in late winter or early spring.
Plant C. japonica in partial shade, out of intense direct sunlight. They like a humus rich, well drained, acidic soil. Commercial fertilizers are available blended especially for camellias. Water regularly. Prune if necessary in early summer after the blooms have faded.
Making a connection between two seemingly different ideas always gives me a little thrill. These moments of enlightenment often serve as a benchmark for me and I rarely forget the time or place they occur. This happened years ago with camellias. I went to see Camellia olifera growing in a North Carolina garden blooming with its single white flowers in the fall. This plant had survived one of the coldest winters on record completely unprotected. It was here that my guide explained to me that camellias and tea are one and the same. Well, at least they are in the same genus together. The extravagant winter blooming Camellia japonica is a very close cousin to Camellia sinesis, the plant that provides us with leaves from which tea is brewed.
While the large leafed and flowered japonicas dazzle gardeners in mild climates in late winter, the small leafed and fall blooming sasanquas are always beautiful among the classic autumn foliage. So camellias actually "bookend" the winter months.
While camellias are known as a Southern belle, there are varieties that will grow as far north as zone 6. Especially cold tolerant are those developed by Dr. William Ackerman. Many of Dr. Ackerman's camellias bloom in fall rather than spring. Northern gardeners should plant their camellias in spring. Select a spot in your garden that is a sheltered and receives bright but filtered light.
Here is a list of cold tolerant camellias
Camellia 'April Dawn'
Camellia 'April Kiss'
Camellia 'Pink Icicle'
Camellia 'Winter's Joy'
Camellia 'Winter's Rose'*
Camellia 'Winter's Beauty'*
Camellia 'Winter's Waterlily'*