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Camellias and Hydrangeas

Posted by jimtnc z7 NC (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 25, 06 at 11:25

I suppose I should have posted this thread here to start with, but I didn't. This is part of my wife's plan to add more color to our little area for more of the year than just spring.

I've already made a mistake by choosing Gardenias AND a bad planting spot (but got good help advice on these forums to correct. I had to dig up 2 Ligustrum's and transplant 2 Gardenias from foundation plantings and move the Gardenias to a more suitable place, so I thought I'd better ask for advice on the above mentioned flowers and sun/shade planting requirements before hand and maybe save myself some trouble. :)

I've already researched and read a little about both, and they seem to be good plants for my NC temperature region. I would like a plant size up to around 6' high and 6-8' wide. Don't know if that's what is a compact, dwarf, or whatever size category?

Is there anything that might help me be successful with these two plants? I'd be very appreciative if you can save me extra work this time. :) Thanks.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

You should be aware that, given the proper care, camellias will actually grow to be trees hundreds of years old. They do grow very slowly though so it might take "eons" before that happens. Because of that, I would never call them dwarf. Buds begi to grow between May (south) and July (north). Feed them cottonseed meal monthly between Spring and late August/early September.

If planting near the house, be aware that cement leeches and the soil tends to become alkaline. Because the plants get big, plant them away from the walls (2-3 feet perhaps?).

Except for the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) and H.paniculata (can get 10 feet high and wide), hydrangeas will not grow to be that big. Some varieties of Oakleaf Hydrangea are considered dwarfs (Sikes Dwarf, Peewee). Most grow 'tween 6-10 feet.

Both plants have similar requirements. Lighting requirements: both like dappled sun, morning sun or part shade (full sun means 6 hours of sun light or more). Soil requirements: acidic soil for the camellias and to make hydrangeas bloom "blue/purple" instead of pink/red). My soil in Texas is alkaline so the non-white hydrangeas bloom red/pink (I add iron chelates from plant nurseries to prevent iron chlorosis). Water rqmts: lots of acidic mulch (2-4 inches) and moist soil.

Most mail order companies will give you an estimate of how tall their plants are expected to grow. As a fyi, most of the hydrangeas that I have will grow between 4-6 feet high.

I prune some down to 4' after blooming and before buds set at the end of summer. Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood can be pruned whenever you want but I always wait until after they have bloomed for obvious reasons. I do not tend to prune the Paniculatas like PeeGee or Limelight yearly; instead, I just trim here and there when needed.

If you are going to be trying to alter the color of your hydrangeas' flowers, it is best (easier?) to plant them in a pot instead of the in the ground.

Good luck,
Luis


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

Luis -
That was a super post. I wish when people asked questions on forums they could get the same kind of response...concise and to the point. Very good information that I needed to know.

We here in the south have to be careful with sun requirements from suppliers, home centers, etc. When they say "full sun", they really don't mean full sun in the south in the summer...nothing I know of survives for long when it's up over 95 every day blasting down at those withering plants.

I want to use some of them as privacy shrub blocking, so 6-8' is okay. I really don't want to mess with a pot situation. I want to put them in the ground and let them go. I may want to alter the ph from time to time, and I know that won't take place quickly. The point about cement leeching was great. I knew that could take place, but I really didn't know what the result was if that happened.

I had trouble with Gardenias in a small front porch-type bed between the brick porch wall and the concrete walk. I lost one Gardenia, and the rest looked like they were on the way. I moved them to a nicer shadier location.

The way my lot is cut, most of the new planting will have to be of a "border" nature, rather than planting beds throughout my area (only have .62 acre).

Again, thanks for the insight and advice.

Jim


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

Camellias do grow slow compared to other plants. A hedge of Sasanquas will be beautiful, but for privacy it will take at least 10 years or more, so you may want to consider that. They are also fairly expensive when buying larger plants.

Sasanquas do better here in full sun all day than in shade. They bloom more prolifically and grow faster. They will bloom fine in shade too, of course, but there is nothing wrong with full sun in your area. They must stay watered until established which can take several years.

I have all my gardenias in full sun also. They do fine and bloom much better than the ones in semi shade.
You didn't mention what varieties you have, but I have Radicans, August Beauty and Mystery in the sun, and some against a concrete driveway. They are fine and bloom most of the summer.
I think you are getting some good advice from various posters but statements like

"nothing I know of survives for long when it's up over 95 every day blasting down at those withering plants."

is incorrect. Many camellias and hydrangeas perform better in full sun here (and I'm further South than you are) than in the shade or even semi shade.
The variety of plant does matter.


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

The reason I made that statement about full sun is because I've been repeatedly told by local and area growers to disregard the "grow in full sun" instructions for "most" plants in nurseries and home centers because of our summer heat in the south, and plant in partial shade.

You're right...variety does matter, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to distinguish between them. So, I suppose the warning is to err on the side of caution for partial shade instead of full sun, I'm guessing. Not arguing with you. I have a CFlorida dogwood that was in shade for most of 20 years (I didn't plant it), and until I cut down most trees around it, it grew very little and bloomed less than that. It's in full sun now and loving it.

But, being told (a lot) how important placement and care is with the Camellia, Hydrangea, Gardenia type flowering shrubs are has me scratching my head about what to do and where to put them...because unless I stick them in the middle of the yard I don't have much full sun area left anyway.

By the way, I haven't bought any yet...just doing the prepwork. I'm trying to learn what to buy and where I can place them. I just had 5 new trees planted and I'm now trying to add the color that I mentioned in my original post. I do intend to get them in a matter of days though, so my research is nearing an end.


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

It can get complicated but the easiest way is to research plants before (or after buying) but before planting them.
Most plant info can be found on the web. Many good books exist that will also help. Nursery people can be inconsistent unless you talk to an actual horticulturalist.
However, whatever information you come across, you must only use what applies to your zone so the Carolina forum is a good place for to ask specific questions.


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

Luis or others -
You mentioned "lots of acidic mulch". Can you be more clear? What kind/type? Pine straw? Is cedar mulch acidic, b ecause I use a lot of that?


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

Hello, jimtnc. "Lots" means 2-3 inches of mulch (or 3-4" if talking about pine needle mulch). And yes. Pine bark, pine straw, cedar mulch, cypress mulch are all acidic.

For acid loving plants, I use either (a) pine needle mulch or (b) any of the others with some sulphur mixed in.

Regarding where to plant, let me give you an example. The front of my house faces north and I have about 2-3 feet of area that is always shaded. I planted there ferns, camellias and azaleas. They have no direct sunlight hitting them but the area is bright with lots of reflected sunlight. The azaleas bloom very well there in that "bright shade". They are located about 1.5 to 2.0 feet away from where the sun hits.

On the other hand, one single plant in the back is in trouble, I think. It hardly bloomed this year but, because of the current drought, I cannot be sure if lack of sunlight caused of the problem or if our current drought had had something to do with it or both. So, I am going to prune the other plants around it so more sunlight can get to the azalea + keep an eye on moisture levels.

Elsewhere in the back of the yard, I have this big Crape Myrtle Tree. I planted camellias on the east side of it so they will get the CM's shade in the afternoon. Following that concept, I planted some hydrangeas on the east side of other trees I have on the back. If I lived further north, I could have planted camellias on the west side so the plants get only afternoon sun but, hmmm, here in Texas, that is a bad idea.

Another take: I planted a hydrangea in an area where it gets very little sunl that will affect flower production. But I do not care; I simply like the contrast of the hydrangea leaves against nearby shrubs.

Luis


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

Thanks Luis....that's a big help. My problem is I'm in a subdivision, but I'm also abutting to a very heavy tree line on one side of the property (I'm talking critters from hell including cattle, deer, etc), not to mention being surrounded by 90-footers on the adjoining lots that haven't been cut down. That's why I had around 50 trees cut down...to let in some sunlight (it's a small lot - 2/3 acre), pines and sweetgums mostly.

I've been digging planting holes everywhere, especially along the perimeter area where there is mostly dappled sun. I have 3 Hydrangeas and 2 Camellias to plant tomorrow, along with 4 Abelias...and that's a lot of holes. Went through the same thing last w/e and I'm getting too old for this. :)


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

Luis -
You also said you sometimes spread sulphur on the mulch for acidic plants (I think everything I've stuck in the ground is acidic). Do you just sprinkle at will, or a little here and there? Never messed with sulphur, but aren't there ready-to-go products on the shelf for that...or buy sulphur in bulk for better price?


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

Hello, Jimtnc. I think I should not have mentioned what I do in so much detail. Yes, I add sulphur to the mulch but that is because I have very alkaline soil. I did not mean for you to copy that practice.

A Univ of Missouri researcher determined that, on a long term basis, Soil Ph Levels tend to go down slightly when one uses pine needle mulch and Soil Ph Levels go up when one uses acidic mulches. To counteract that tendency, I use pine needles or add sulphur to the mulch.

But notice... in your state, North Carolina, your soil is already very acidic as a result of weather, acid rain, etc so you do not have to go thru the hassle that I have to go thru for camellias and similar plants. Just use any acidic mulch and forget about it.

However, I suggest that you do a soil analysis (you'll need a 1/2 lb sample) every 3 years for sandy soil or 5 for clay soil. When you get the report back, look for a section called something like "Understanding the Soil Test Report". Amongst other things, it should indicate the PH Level and the amount of minerals that your soil has. It should also give you suggestions on how to adjust Ph/mineral levels that are out of whack with the averages for home gardening.

In some places in N.C., I would not be surprised if one is told to add lime because the soil Ph is too acidic! Note: those cheap Ph Meters sold in nurseries are too unreliable.

So again, good news, you do not have to add sulphur to your mulch like I do!

Luis


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

LOL!! You must have been reading my previous posts. I bought a PH meter about 6 weeks ago. Didn't work, and took it back. :)

I had a soil test about 3-4 years ago, and it was fairly run of the mill with the exception that called for enhancing calcium content, and I couldn't find calcidic lime, so I used the other thing that HD sells (can't remember now).

I refuse to use pine needle mulch anymore (we call it pine straw). I have too many snakes around that love to bed under the pine straw, so there's my reason for cedar mulch.

I'll hold off on the sulphur bit unless the soils test recommends it. The state will do it free, but I have a hard time getting over there.

I've also seen grower planting recommendations to add pine/cedar mulch along with some potting soil to the planting hole as an amendment for bare-root acidic plants. Make sense to you?


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

I've heard of adding compost to the planting hole but not potting soil. That is what I use on roses. I can understand the reason for not using the pine straw though; I do not like those buggers either. Just leave them in the pyramids where Indiana Jones likes to go to!


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

Luis and folks
Lots of good information. I had a question on hydrangeas and gardenia : I got both these plants as a gift, i think bought in Harris Teeter. last year, i planted both in ground and got some pink bloom on hydrangea. however, in winter it completely died and now sprouting back up. I assume , its one of those varieties which will never grow 4-6'. am i correct?
i have diff varieties of gardenias, augusta beauty , dwarf and this HT gift variety. it is a bush with vert pale green color like hydrangea leaf color. do u know what variety? also these all have buds on them but its been a while i got to see the actual bloom on these. buds are in 100s of quantities.


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

Hello, fragrant_grower. I am not good at identifying plants but, I guess you have a Mophead Hydrangea Macrophylla (a.k.a. French Hydrangea or Florist Hydrangea). Mac's come in two types, mopheads and lacecaps. Both require the same type of care. Mopheads are probably the most common ones but lacecaps are the ones that have large, showy sterile florets surrounding a central crown of small fertile flowers.

Because there are so many varieties of Macs, it is not possible for me to know if yours will get as big as 6'. All things being equal, Macs grown in the ground can reach that height provided you meet the plant's requirements. But.... a word of caution.

You need to be extra careful with grocery store bought Macs because those tend to be weak Mac varieties that are forced to bloom early and which can be hard to grow outside. Some are not winter hardy and others have temperamental root systems so, keep your plant well mulched and make sure the soil is moist, not wet. Use iron chelates products (available from most 'real' nurseries) if the plant develops iron chlorosis symptoms. If you ever have to replace yours, choose named varieties sold by local nurseries or mail-order companies.

Enjoy your blooms!
Luis


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RE: Camellias and Hydrangeas

Luis,

I am so glad I ran across you! I have a camellia getting ready to plant (I am guessing now since I read about yours)
on the east of the fence getting morning sun/afternoon shade along with my hydrangeas and gardenia's 'august beauty' and 'veitchii' Is that the best location? Also, do I need to keep a little moisture on them for the winter?
I just gave my camelia 'rosea plena' a little miracle grow for acid loving plants and getting ready to plant it.
Want a heads up before planting and caring for the winter.

Thank you,
Donna


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