It's long been a quest to grow Camellias outdoors in colder climates. But in many instances, you are asking Camellias to do something that they are just not capable of doing. So here are a few tips if you are trying to decide to grow Camellias in your area and how you can do it!
Ideal Climate Zones
The Camellia Belt, or the best growing climates for Camellias are in zone 8, 9 and sometimes 10. This warmer region of the US is quite suitable for growing Camellias outdoors. Camellias can generally tolerate some freezing temperatures, but they don't like it for prolonged periods and will almost never survive ground or root freezing. Zone 7 is possible - keeping in mind that you protect them if it gets very cold and by following the guidelines below. Zone 6 and below usually will not tolerate outdoor planting of Camellias.
Does that mean you can't have Camellias in your climate? Absolutely not! You can grow Camellias in most any climate, as long as you are aware of the risks of severe freezes and grow them in a manner in which they are protected. In climates zones 6 and below, they will most likely need to be grown in containers where they can be protected indoors during winter weather or in greenhouses where they can be kept heated. Containers that freeze will cause severe damage to your plants.
Choose Cold-Tolerant Cultivars
Not all camellias are cold tolerant. By cold, we mean slightly below freezing for extended periods of time or for extreme cold temps that reach the low 20's or below. Choose a variety that has some merit with cold tolerance. Some cultivars bounce back after a freeze while others can have complete bud loss and even limb damage.
SPRING PLANTING rather than fall planting, as usually recommended in the South. This gives the plants a full growing season before the onset of winter.
Avoid full sun, especially early morning sun. An over-story of evergreen shade trees providing winter protection from sun and wind, is ideal.
It's crucial to provide adequate root protection through the use of mulch. Use pine needles, pine bark, or other natural organic mulch to a depth of 3-4 inches.
Hydrate Before Freezing
It's important to make sure that your camellias are not dry before a freeze. Dry plants are more susceptible to freeze damage than moist plants.
Frost Blankets are excellent in providing protection against cold weather on your camellias. These are agricultural products designed for cold protection and can be used over and over again. They come in several thicknesses depending on the amount of protection you need.