Hardening Young Camellias for Winter

StephenInNYC(7b)November 12, 2013

Hello All,
For background on this you could look at this thread:


I'm in New York City, zone 7b. I have a number of young camellias (sasanqua.. don't know the variety) which I started as cuttings in summer 2011 so this will be their third winter. The plants are 8 to 12 inches tall... so still pretty small and delicate. Most of them have leaf buds. Last winter they were all in pots which I burried and covered with plastic and micro foam. Last spring I put them in the ground in various locations and there they remain.
Last weekend (november 9) seeing that there was light frost in the forecast for this week I covered them, again with clear plastic and micro foam over an armature. Then this morning I was looking at the Ackerman book and saw that he says to let them harden off for couple weeks before covering but he doesn't specify what kind of temperatures they should be subject to. We've had some nights in the mid 30s. Tonight is forecast to be 30 degrees.
I took the cuttings from a mature plant very near my home so I'm pretty confident they will eventually be able to survive the winters unprotected.
So here are my questions...
How crucial is the hardening process? Is there clear evidence that it makes a difference?
Should I go ahead and uncover them now and if so at what point should they be covered? After a hard freeze (at or below 28)? Before?
How many years should I plan on protecting them in winter?
Also, it has been a really dry fall here so I watered before covering them. I can't undo this now but for future reference was this the right move?
Thanks in advance for any and all advice!

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Well, I do not grow them from cuttings because they take so long compared to other shrubs but I would have interpreted Ackerman's comments as something to apply on the first winter only and I would do this by exposing them to temperatures near 32F and then let their genetic trait handle coler temperatures. Here are some temps to have in mind.. open blosoms are damaged below 26-28F on vaerage; buds below 10-15F. Sasanquas get damaged at much colder temps, below 0F. So none of those temps that you mentioned are even close to damaging the 8-12" plants that you have. I would keep them well mulched with 3-4" of mulch. And maybe water the night before temps go down from above to below freezing. That is to minimize dessication damage. But that would be all I would do.

The best way to prevent damage is to have a healthy plant. Depending on camellia tree size, you can cloak it with frost wrap or cloth sheets to provide some temporary insulation on the coldest nights. Then, once spring returns, keep the soil evenly moist and fertilize to encourage healthy new growth to replace any damaged tissues. But in Zone 7, it is not likely you would hit temps like that.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 1:45PM
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I have lots of camellias in the NYC Metro Area, they do fine--no need to baby them. Just mulch.

This one (part of a five foot bush) blooms on an off through Autumn and Winter then more, in March.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 5:13PM
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