January In The Garden

January In The Garden

Debbie Odom

In January, the holidays are over and the real show begins!  Peak camellia season is emerging in January and will continue through March in the warmer regions of the US.  Here are a few Camellia garden tips for January.

Keep them Watered

Dry camellias are prone to freeze damage.  Keeping them well hydrated during periods of cold weather can help the plants from getting too much winter damage.

Keep them Mulched

Mulching heavily with leaves, bark or straw will help insulate them from drying out and from excessive cold weather.

Petal Blight & Mulching

Mulching has a secondary benefit during the pre-spring blooming period – Helping with Petal Blight.  Petal blight is the condition that affects our warm climate camellia blooms.  Mold spores called Ciborinia camelliae affect open camellia blossoms as the weather warms.  The blossoms turn brown and the flowers fall to the ground. The mold spores lie dormant until the next camellia season when warm air causes them to break free and float in the air, land on open blossoms, and the cycle continues year after year.  There is no cure for petal blight, but you can slow it down by applying a layer of mulch in late fall to early winter before the flowers start blooming.  Picking up blooms is unrealistic and even if you do and your neighbor does not, then it wont help.

Cold Weather Protection

If you have small plants, you can use frost blankets to help protect your plant in the event you have severe freezes.  Even a light weight blanket or sheet will work.  Do not use plastic sheeting unless you can have something to prevent it from touching the leaves.  As the sun comes out it can become very hot under plastic and can cause burning much worse than the cold.

Remember most damage comes from cold winds – not actually the cold unless it’s severe – in the lower teens or if the plants are not dormant.  Blocking as much wind as possible during cold weather can help.  Managing cold protection of course gets harder with larger camellias or with many camellias.

No Fertilizer Until Spring

We know it’s tempting, but don’t apply fertilizers until the spring.  Just give them the basics and keep your fertilizer in the garage for a little longer!

What’s My Name?

The biggest question we get at our nursery is “can you tell me what this is”?  You’d think it would be about camellia care, but people are more concerned with the identity of their blooms.  As we move into the blooming season, it’s the perfect time to think about documenting your camellias.  Get the tags on them while they’re blooming so when they’re not, you’ll still know what they are!

Don’t know what your Camellia is?  Then take this opportunity to do a little pre-investigating.  Label your plants with a number or something that is temporary.  Take photos of the blooms.  Make notes of the blooms sizes, forms, when they bloom, any particular traits they may have that can help identify them later.  Also take photos of the leaves and unopened buds.  Many times we can identify camellias by the leaves and buds, so they are just as important as the flowers.

Get Some Help.  Take your blooms to Camellia shows, to local Camellia Societies or to a nursery who specializes in Camellias.  Also Facebook has a great identification group.  Camellia Identification – Facebook