All about Camellia – History, Meaning, Facts, Care & More

Camellia is a flowering plant genus in the Theaceae family. These attractive flowers are found widespread across Eastern and Southern Asia, covering regions from the Himalayas to countries like Japan and Indonesia. These are dense shrubs having brilliant foliage. Camellias provide bring and long-blooming flowers.

Facts about Camellia

  • There are about 100-300 various species of Camellias. Furthermore, there are about 3000 different hybrids of the plant.
  • Camellias are small trees or evergreen shrubs that can reach up to heights of 20 m (66 feet).
  • The flowers can come in white, yellow, pink or red colours. However, purely yellow flowers are found in Vietnam and South China only. The tea varieties of camellias are always white in colour.
  • Various camellia species are adapted well to acid soils that are rich in humus. However, most of the species don’t grow in chalky or other calcium-rich soils.
  • Most of the camellia species require large amounts of water, either naturally from rainfalls or from irrigation.
  • Camellias cannot tolerate droughts. However, some species in Vietnam can grow without requiring much water.
  • Camellias generally grow quite rapidly. In general, they grow about 30 cm each year until they become mature enough. However, it depends mostly upon the geographical location, climatic conditions and the variety of the flower.
  • Camellias flower at seasons starting from late winter seasons to early spring.
  • These flowers are planted under a canopy of pine and oaks trees, thus creating alternating and broken shade, which is suitable for the growth of camellias.
  • Camellias are long-lived flowers and can survive for more than 100 years.

History of Camellia

The genus of Camellia is named by Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist, after Georg Joseph Kamel, the Jesuit botanist, who has worked and described a species of the flower. Camellia flowers were cultivated in the Chinese and Japanese gardens for centuries before they appeared in Europe. The first camellia species found in England were a single white and a single red, which were grown and flowered by Robert James, Lord Petre in his garden at the Thorndon Hall in Essex.

 

The earliest fossil of the camellia species were the leaves of C. abensis that were from the upper Eocene of Japan, along with C. multiforma from lower Oligocene of Washington in the United States, and C. abchasica leaves from the lower Oligocene of Bulgaria.

Characteristic of Camellia

Camellias thrive in mild climates and are quite durable. The most common species of camellias are Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica.

 

  • Leaves – The leaves of Camellia are arranged alternately and are quite simple, thick and have a glossy appearance.
  • Flowers – The flowers are generally large and conspicuous, which ranges between 1-12 cm in diameter.
  • Petals – There are about 5-9 round and overlapping petals in the naturally occurring camellia species.
  • Stamens – Camellia flowers have dense and conspicuous yellow stamens, which are often contrasted with the colours of petals.
  • Fruits – Camellias don’t have well-developed fruits, and they occur in dry capsules. These fruits are sometimes subdivided into about 5 components, each of which contains up to 8 seeds.

Use of Camellia

  • Camellias have great economic importance in several regions like Southern Asia, East Asia and India. In these areas, the leaves of the sinensis species are processed to create beverage tea.
  • oleifera also produces tea seed oil that is used in cooking and even cosmetics.
  • Certain hybrids of Camellia like sasanqua and the ornamental C. japonica are good sources of numerous garden cultivars.
  • Camellia oil, pressed from the seeds of japonica, is used to clean and protect blades of various cutting tools and instruments. It is also used for hair care in Japan.
  • Being a landscape plant, the camellia is used in the formation of hedges and borders.
  • There are certain medicinal uses of camellia, as these flowers are astringent, haemostatic, antihaemorrhagic, tonic and salve. On mixing with sesame oil, it can be used to treat burns and scalds. Also, camellias are known for showing anticancer activities.
  • These plants are believed to reduce the risks of heart disease, control blood pressure and blood sugar levels. These flowers are also used for lowering cholesterol levels and boosting one’s metabolism. Green tea is also helpful for reducing inflammation in arthritis patients. It is also known for preventing cavities and treating symptoms of cold and flu.
  • The tea extract obtained by the process of steam distillation of black tea is used for flavouring various commercial food and beverages, like frozen dairy products, alcoholic beverages, candy, gelatin, baked goods, and pudding.
  • Cold tea produced from camellias is also sometimes used to flavour dried fruits.

Camellia Flower Meaning

Camellia plants have been precious possessions of gardeners since decades. These flowers are a symbol of life, admiration and affection. They also represent the union between two passionate lovers and a long-lasting devotion for each other or eternal love. The delicately layered petals, representing the woman and the green leafy part called the calyx, representing man, symbolise a man protecting his lover or wife. Each of the colours has its unique symbolism.

 

  • White camellias denote adoration and are gifted to someone who is admired.
  • Pink flowers represent a longing for someone, and is, therefore, gifted to someone who is missed.
  • The red species symbolise love, deep desire and passion.

How to Care For Camellia

Camellias can thrive in urban conditions if maintained well and can even grow in containers. The trick to grow a camellia plant without putting much effort is to plant it properly.

 

  • These plants require acidic soil that can drain well. Test the acidic levels of the soil before planting and make sure that the pH stays between 6 and 6.5.
  • While involved in digging, make sure to work up to a few inches of organic material. This would ensure that your plant would have adequate drainage and sufficient nutrients.
  • Plant the shrub in a shady area that would not have direct sunlight.
  • Plant your camellia at a slightly higher ground than the surrounding soil. This would help excess water to drain off.
  • Don’t plant a camellia in a soil that would have high competition for nutrients. For example, never plant it below a birch tree, which has shallow roots close to the soil surface.
  • Water your plant regularly until its root system is well-established. Irrigate young shrubs deeply for encouraging the roots to spread downwards.
  • Avoid using a lot of fertilisers whenever necessary. Camellias won’t grow well upon overusing them.
  • Species like sasanqua camellias and japonica need pruning at various times. While the former would require pruning just after the flowers fade post springtime, the latter would need to be pruned in early spring.
  • You can also consider shaping them lightly to encourage fullness.

 

You can plant camellias in autumn, winter or spring. Make sure to plant it away from areas receiving direct wind.