Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

Camellias are shrubs or small trees belonging to the Theaceae family; the genus includes about 250 species, all originating in eastern Asia, particularly China, Japan and Korea. The most cultivated in Europe is undoubtedly the Camellia japonica, but in sasanqua, reticulata and Hiemalis varieties are quite easily found on the market. Especially the sasanqua, which we will examine in more detail in this article, is spreading more and more thanks to some of its peculiar characteristics. First of all it has proved to be more tolerant of land and climate; to this we add the fragrant and prolonged flowering, from October to February, a period in which gardens and terraces are mostly bare.
Camellia sasanqua belongs to the Theaceae family and is native to Japan and China. It belongs to the category of evergreen plants, reaches a maximum size of about 3/5 meters in height, has small green leaves. The inflorescences occur in the autumn and winter season, from November until March and their shape varies according to the shape and type of the flowers themselves. For this reason you can find single-flowered, peony, anemone, semi-double, irregular double and formal shrubs. The life of these plants is very long and during this, we note the alternation between periods of rich flowering and periods of few inflorescences. The plant must be multiplied towards the end of summer until the end of winter, using cuttings or leaf buds.

Characteristics and origins

There camellia sasanqua It is native to southern Japan, in particular the island of Kiushu. In all probability it came to the West in the mid-1700s, although the first reliable source refers to 1789, when it was introduced in England by Charles Maries. In Italy, however, they arrived much later, thanks to the work of some British nobles who bought buildings on the banks of the great lakes in the northern regions. The climate, the quality of the soil and water were indeed favorable to this cultivation, to the point that even today we can find enviable collections such as those in the gardens of Villa Taranto, on Lake Maggiore.
It is characterized by thinner branches than the japonica and with a slightly decombant posture. Observing them closely you notice that they are covered with a light, reddish and bristly hair. The leaves are leathery and opaque, elongated and with a serrated edge. The flowers, in the species, have a diameter of 5-7 cm and with white, red or pink petals. The flower is generally more open, single or at most double. There are varieties with early, medium and late flowering. The seeds develop around September.


Common name

Camellia sasanqua
Family and Latin name Theaceae, gen. Camelia, about 250 species
Origins Japan
Type of plant shrub
Leaf color Medium green
Foliage persistent
Height Up to 7 meters
Cultivation difficult
Growth slow
irrigations Frequent but moderate, never stagnation
Exposure Bright half-shade, welcome direct light in the morning
Wind Sensitive to cold winds
Minimum temperature -12 ° C
Ground Light and always fresh; ideal land of leaves and peat; tolerates slightly calcareous
soil pH Better subacid
Pests and diseases Oziorrinco, cochineal, root rot, leaf chlorosis
Propagation Cutting, grafting, seed
Use Isolated shrub, groups, informal hedge, tree, vase

Camellia sasanqua how to plant it

The Camellia favors not too calcareous soils and therefore, with a not too acid pH, rich in organic substances, well drained, soft and very fresh. In the presence of a clayey soil (so little draining), it is good to create a large hole so as to mix the clay present on the ground with peat, compost, mature manure and leaf soil. According to the situation that arises, a draining material must be placed at the base of the hole. If, instead, you find yourself in front of a calcareous soil, you must totally replace the earth with soil for acidophilic shrubs. In other words, a sort of acid pH zone must be created, in which to plant camellias. Regarding the temperature, the Camelia resists even at low temperatures but, they can't stand the strong wind and the snow on the leaves that can cause burns.

Planting in the ground

Potted plants can be planted at any time, avoiding periods of severe frost or heat. But we always try to disturb the roots as little as possible. If the specimen is bare-rooted or only with a clod of earth we operate preferably in October-November or from February to April.
Let's make sure before the quality of the soil: it must be as compatible as possible with what was explained before.
If it is instead calcareous, clayey or in any case not very draining it is highly recommended to change it in depth. For an optimal work and to guarantee a better insulation of the area over time, it is good to insert a large vessel to which we have removed the bottom (or a cement product such as those used in construction). At the bottom of the hole (deep and at least 80 cm wide) we insert a good quantity of volcanic lapillus or expanded clay. Then insert the clod, cover with the appropriate soil and irrigate.


Planting / repotting

October-November; February; better during flowering
Pruning At the end of flowering
Composting March-September
Winter protection From December to February
Flowering From October to February depending on the variety

Camellia sasanqua: part two cultivation.

Before planting the Camellia sasanqua, it is good to choose the right area of ​​the garden in which to plant it. It prefers a shaded area, even if it does not disdain direct sunlight; in this case, however, the soil must be kept moist. As for the waterings, they must be abundant in the summer, spraying the leaves during the hours following sunset. Another fundamental factor is to eliminate the dead branches or excess flowers, so as not to overload the plant. Fertilization with slow release products must take place only if the plant needs it, during the spring and autumn season. This practice can be replaced by a mulch based on material of vegetable and compost origin because it is able to protect the plant from excessive cold and heat.

Cultivation land

Like all camellias it prefers a subacid to acid soil, composed mostly of leaf mold, capable of keeping itself fresh for a long time, but at the same time endowed with an excellent drainage. In the absence of these conditions, we will surely run into stunted growth, leaf growth or the onset of dangerous root rot.
Sasanqua is however, above all with regard to the quality of the soil, much more tolerant than the other species. It can grow well even if there is a higher percentage of calcium and the pH is slightly alkaline.
The ideal is to buy specific soil for acidophilic or mix in equal parts land of leaves, peat and sandy clay (or coarse sand).
Unless our soil is already compatible it is recommended to dig deep and completely change it.

Diseases and pests

The growth and normal development of the plant can be stopped by shortages of salts, parasites and some climatic agents. If you notice a yellowing of the leaf veins (ferric chlorosis), it means that you are watering the plants with calcareous water. While if you notice black and brown spots it means that it has manganese deficiency. As previously stated, Camellia sasanqua does not tolerate snow and frost. They cause burns and damage the buds, flowers and leaves. The parasites from which it is attacked and, which are visible to the naked eye, are: the cochineal and the aphids. Their presence is highlighted by dark spots in the foliage area and, if not eliminated immediately, they take on a sticky consistency. Aphids are eliminated by washing the plant and treating it with specific insecticides, while the cochineal is removed manually, using a cotton pad soaked in alcohol and then, ending with the washing of the plant, so as to eliminate alcohol.
If grown in the best way, they are rarely attacked by phytophagous pests. The most common is the oziorrinco, to be fought with specific geodisinfestanti. Cochineal is also fairly present, especially the scallop. It causes decay and the advent of the maize of the leaves. We use mineral oil activated by endotherapeutic insecticides and we clean with soft soap.
Leaf chlorosis is a common problem: to remedy this, use chelated iron. However, it is important to prevent changing the composition of the soil by watering with calcium-free water and occasionally spreading iron sulphate on the ground.

Composition of the vase

Pot cultivation is recommended especially if our soil is too alkaline or if the winter or summer climate is completely inadequate (too cold, too hot, too windy). In this way we can better control all these conditions. We choose a container that is at least twice the size of the earth bread so as to postpone future interventions as much as possible.
On the bottom we will create a draining layer with expanded clay or volcanic lapillus of good grain size. We insert the plant, we cover with the prepared mixture (like the one above) and we irrigate abundantly.


Also in this respect the sasanqua is more tolerant than other species. It tolerates, indeed wants, a very bright exposure and even a positioning with several hours of direct light is appreciated. Clearly we will have to keep in mind our geographical location. In the North and at high altitude the morning sun, even in summer, rarely causes burns or dehydration; in the South it can damage it a lot and it is therefore good to choose positions that are always bright, but more sheltered.

Resistance to cold

The camellias are quite rustic (around -12 °), especially if in the open ground. However, it is not uncommon, especially in the early years and in potted specimens, that prolonged frost can cause leaf drop and flower abortion. The same effects can be linked to single or repeated windy episodes. Especially in the North, therefore, it is advisable to choose locations sheltered by a well exposed wall, especially in the morning, and which helps to weaken the harmful effects of winter.
The potted specimens and the young ones in full ground benefit from a thick mulch and from the covering of the aerial part with some special cloth.

Irrigation Camelia sasanqua

This is one of the aspects (along with the terrain) to which you pay close attention. Camellias always want fresh soil and a humid environment, similar to what can be found in the woods. At the same time they must be preserved to the maximum from water stagnation that quickly causes deterioration.
The first symptom of water shortage is foliar drop; on the contrary, excessive presence causes stains on the leaves and general decay.
So before irrigating, make sure that the soil is dry for at least the first 5 cm of depth. To keep the roots fresh and avoid too frequent interventions it is good, both in pots and in the garden, to prepare a thick mulch. We prefer materials derived from conifers, such as bark or needles, or leaves or peat.
From spring to autumn they benefit from evening misting of the foliage: let's avoid it in the flowering period, so as not to compromise its duration.
It is also important, if possible, to use rainwater or calcium as low as possible to avoid affecting the pH and the composition of the soil.

Camellia fertilizers

As for the fertilizations in this case it is better to be always lighter than to exaggerate, causing radical burns due to the excess of nitrogen. Camellias are very slow growing plants and need a limited supply of nutrients. In general, we recommend distributing a specific granule for acidophilic in March and September, at the minimum recommended dose. We avoid any intervention within 1 year of planting and on plants in precarious conditions.


The repotting of Camellia sasanqua is done in the flowering period: it is true that we will lose many buds, but the plant will withstand it better. Instead we avoid working during vegetative growth. Wet the vase well before removing the roots, so as to damage them as little as possible. We choose a slightly larger container to avoid excessive water stagnation.


There camellia sasanqua it does not require pruning, given its extremely slow growth. Moreover over time it naturally acquires an elegant and balanced form and lends itself less, compared to the japonica, to the alberello formation or for the formal hedges.

Camellia sasanqua variety

In our country there are nursery districts specialized in the cultivation and selection of camellias. Here are some varieties that are easily available on the market:
• Red Hiryu with simple corolla, blooms in autumn
• Kanjiro bright red semi-double, flowers in February
• White Navajo with pink edges, semi-double, blooms in October
• Marta Piffetti intense pink, double flower, blooms in October
• Light pink Cleopatra, semi-double flower,
• Hina Yuki pure white, double flower, blooms in January
Watch the video
  • Winter camellia

    The winter camellia is native to Japan and specifically to the island of Okinawa. It has been grown there for centuries now

    visit: winter camellia