Camellias prefer a semi-shaded spot, although the sasanqua types -which include pale pink Plantation Pink and popular red Yuletide – are happy in full sun.    Regardless of where they are grown, camellias need conditions similar to rhododendrons – moist, well-drained soil that is      slightly acid, so lime is a no-no. A sign that the soil is too alkaline is yellowing of the leaves, so applications of special camellia fertiliser will be needed to fix the problem.

Other than getting the soil right, camellias need little attention apart from trimming after flowering to keep them in shape and a mulch of leaves to keep their roots cool.

Watering may be necessary in dry summers, as camellias need damp (but not waterlogged) feet. An annoying leaf-roller caterpillar sometimes attacks new foliage but an occasional puff of rose spray keeps them away.

If you want a particular variety, look for a camellia in bloom. More than any other plant, over the years a proportion of camellias have tended to turn up in garden centres with incorrect names.

Use camellias for hedges. Plantation Pink is an old favourite for hedging. Turn a tall-growing variety, such as Pure Silk or Phyl Doak, into a small tree by removing lower branches and letting the top grow. Espalier camellias, such as Bonanza, on a fence or wall,  but ensure air can circulate around plants. Grow them as small standards in pots. Guilio Nuccio is recommended for a semi-shaded situation. Support New Zealand by growing the likes of Nicky Crisp,Jury’s Yellow, Night Rider, Quintessence, Scentuous, HighFragrance, Baby Bear and Elegant Beauty, some of the hundreds of camellias.

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