Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

Christmas camellias perfect for Sacramento

'Yuletide' brightens holidays, feeds hummingbirds with December blooms

'Yuletide' is an appropriate name for this red  sasanqua camellia.

'Yuletide' is an appropriate name for this red sasanqua camellia.

Debbie Arrington

What’s the perfect flower for Sacramento’s holiday season? My vote goes to the Christmas camellia.

After all, we are the Camellia City and Camellia sasanqua dependably blooms every December – and then some. These camellias also are tough, drought-tolerant and can thrive for decades with little care.

With distinct golden centers, these camellias started opening locally in October. Due to mostly mild weather conditions, they’ve stuck around for more than six weeks and still look good for the holidays.

As a Christmas cut flower, sasanqua camellias are attractive in a vase or bowl. They’re also intensely fragrant and brighten up a room with their scent and color. As a potted plant, they make a thoughtful garden gift.

My three Christmas camellia bushes are at least 40 years old; they were planted when our home was built in 1980 and still going strong. They’re all 'Yuletide,' a variety first introduced by Nuccio’s Nurseries in Altadena in 1963. With distinctive large single red blooms, Yuletide was registered with the American Camellia Society.

My 8-foot Yuletide bushes right now are covered with dozens of big red blooms, each 4 to 5 inches across. The flowers almost glow against their shiny green foliage – a natural holiday combination.

In the early winter garden, Christmas camellias make the greatest impact. Besides looking fantastic, they support beneficial wildlife. Those pretty flowers feed bees and hummingbirds when few other flowers are available. This month, I’ve enjoyed watching the hummers feast on my Yuletides.

Sasanqua camellias bloom two to three months before their close cousins, japonica camellias, which start appearing in February. With natural hardiness, Christmas camellias can thrive in spots where japonicas struggle. They can tolerate drought conditions and colder temperatures. Although they prefer filtered shade or dappled sunlight, Christmas camellias also can take more full sun than japonicas.

Cold, hard rain will bring an end to Christmas camellia season, usually in early January. That’s when they’ll start dropping their flowers in bunches. Pick up and dispose of those fallen flowers to help prevent petal blight, a fungal disease that turns camellia petals prematurely brown. Otherwise, those spores will hang around and infect the japonica camellias as they open.

As landscape plants, Christmas camellias are long-lived (often several decades) and easy care. After flowering, they need little if any pruning; just remove dead wood and gently shape if necessary.

Then, feed sasanqua bushes with an acid-type fertilizer formulated for camellias, which prefer slightly acid soils.

But don’t feed your japonica camellias until after they finish blooming in March. Feeding while camellias are in bloom (or about to bloom) may cause them to drop unopened buds.

Thinking about a gift plant? Christmas camellias can be found in bloom now in local nurseries. These bushes can be transplanted after they finish bloom and will continue to bring smiles for many years to come.

For more about growing camellias locally:

More on camellias:

Sacramento's oldest camellia gets a new honor

What to do about brown camellias


0 comments have been posted.

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Local News

Ad for California Local

Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

Contact Us

Send us a gardening question, a post suggestion or information about an upcoming event.