“In the Yard” column for Dec. 21, 2012

We’re used to seeing early camellia color when Camellia sasanquas, which bloom before Camellia japonicas, light up yards and gardens in October, November and December.

Sasanquas are more abundant this winter with the popularity of the variety ShiShi Gashira, said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings.

Technically, Owings said, the dwarf-type ShiShi is another species of camellia, Camellia hiemalis, that gets lumped in the sasanqua group.

Other popular sasanquas include Bonanza, Yuletide, Stephanie Golden, Leslie Ann and Sparkling Burgundy.

If drainage is poor, plant camellias on mounds or in raised beds. I planted a line of Professor Sargent japonica a few years ago, placing one of the camellias in a low spot to complete the line. The bush died.

Camellias like part sun to part shade. Try for a spot that receives four to six hours of direct sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Or select a spot that gets light, dappled shade through the day.

Camellias like acid soil. Fertilize in March to early April as new growth begins. Use a fertilizer labeled for acid-loving plants or a general-purpose fertilizer. If your soil is alkaline, Owings said, (pH above 7) you can make the soil more acid by incorporating ground sulfur, iron sulfate or aluminum sulfate.

Ed Cullen

Advocate staff writer