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What is the likelihood of successfully growing camellias in Kentucky?

Michael Asked

What is the likelihood of successfully growing camellias in Kentucky? I know there are some cold-tolerant hybrids. Please suggest some specific varieties.

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The Gardener’s Answer

Camellias are a staple in any southern garden. I love visiting my in-laws in South Carolina when they are in bloom. Fortunately for us, there are some camellias that we can successfully grow here in Kentucky.

Although there are exceptions, Camellia sasanqua are generally more cold hardy than Camellia japonica. The flowers are not typically as large as the japonicas, but the sasanqua have been hybridized so that they are available in an array of flower color as well as size. Here in Kentucky, Camellias are best planted in the spring or early summer. Even though some are more cold hardy than others, it is a good idea to get them in the ground earlier in the year so that the roots can establish themselves before the cold winter arrives.

These acid loving plants are happiest growing in a space where they will receive morning sun, afternoon shade and protection from harsh winter winds. Site selection is just as important as plant selection. If you are interested in having your soil tested for acidity you can contact your County Cooperative Extension Service.

Check with your local garden centers to see what camellias they carry. The April series that are japonicas, but a bit more tolerable of the cold temperatures, are good choices as well as the Ackerman hybrids developed by Dr. Ackerman of the US National Arboretum. Any of the winter series will all do well in your garden. ‘Pink Icicle’, ‘Two Marthas’, ‘Taylors Perfection’, and ‘Freedom Bell’ are other cultivars to consider.

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