While their blossoms are not as showy as those of their relatives, tea plants have made a good display of color for local landscapes this fall. The blooms are about an inch in diameter and white with orange stamens. Much to my amazement the bees love them, flitting about gathering pollen.
Tea plants are true camellias that like similar growing conditions of the more colorful japonica and sasanqua varieties just coming in to bloom for winter. They grow best with filtered sun and in a slightly acid soil. Some have used their tiny little tea leaves for a beverage but report varying results.
Camellias conveniently spotted along a pathway or used as a back drop for gardens could be your answer to winter color. Several species plus many varieties are available plus lots of colors with red and pink variations plus white at local garden centers. There is even a yellow camellia.
Generally camellias grow best in filtered sun. Many can withstand full sun but the light shade seems to give them stress relief. Following are few more tips to help add a few camellias to your landscape.
- Select a variety known to grow well locally. Usually the older named varieties are best.
- Keep new plants moist and add a mulch. Consistent care is needed for about a year.
- Water established plants at least once a week during the dry times.
- Feed once in March, June and August with an azalea-camellia product.
- Control tea scale a white insect with a systemic insecticide found at garden centers.
- Complete all pruning by late May the time when camellias start forming their flower buds.
If you want to give camellias a closer look many are on display at Bok Tower Gardens - Lake Wales, Harry P Leu Gardens-Orlando and Mead Gardens- Winter Park during the late fall and winter months.