Camellias in January
Here in Eastern North Carolina, early January is a time of transition for our sasanqua and japonica camellias. Sasanquas (Camellia sasanqua) are still flowering here and there, but they are giving way to japonicas (Camellia japonica), which will continue flowering into spring. Depending on the weather, of course. January of 2019 is starting off with very mild conditions, which will encourage flowering for the time being.
Our Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers in Craven County have planted a number of camellias on the grounds of the Craven County Agricultural Building over the years. Two C. japonica selections that have been very noticeable during this first week of January are ‘Lady Clare’ and ‘White At The Gate.’ The latter is not one that I was previously familiar with, but it is exceptional for the color, as well as the size and form of the flowers. If you have a good location for camellias in your home landscape (partial shade, good drainage, soils with plenty of organic matter), ‘White At The Gate’ is worth looking for in 2019.
Regarding pest problems, remember that tea scale is the most common and most serious insect pest typically encountered on camellias. This winter, look for irregular yellow splotches on the upper leaf surfaces, starting with the lower leaves. Examine the undersides of these leaves for the immobile protective “scale” covers of the adults. The females are dark-colored and the males are white and somewhat smaller. The tiny crawlers hatch out in the spring as new foliage is emerging, and can be controlled with horticultural oil sprays at that time. If the infestation involves only a few leaves, removing and disposing of those leaves might be all that’s needed.