Camellia Species – The Differences

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White with pink edge Camellia flowers

Camellias make a great hedge. The most popular hedging variety is Camellia Sasanqua. The other two Camellia species – Japonica and Reticulata – can be used as hedges but they’re not as prevalent as Sasanquas, for reasons we’ll delve into shortly.

The table at the bottom of this article shows a quick guide to the differences.

Camellia Sasanqua

Sasanquas are the most common Camellia used for hedging purposes. This is largely due to a smaller leaf than their cousins, as well as a tighter growth habit.  Sasanquas also do better in the sun, while Japonicas and Reticulatas are a little more fussy about full sun and require a more shaded position.

Left unchecked, Camellia Sasanquas will grow into a decent sized tree, but they’re just as easy to keep to a formal or semi-formal hedge. Amateur hedge builders are attracted to the floral display of Camellias, and rightly so. Camellia Sasanquas flower from Autumn into mid Winter. Their flowers aren’t as showy as Reticulatas or Japonicas, nor are they particularly long lasting. On the plus side, they’re borne in abundance, making for quite the display.

Camellia Sasanqua Hedge Check-list

  1. Small Leaf – Camellias are known for their serrated leaves. It’s an easy “tell” of the Camellia when not in flower.
  2. Growth Habit – they’ll produce arching new branches, especially at the top, but can be kept tightly clipped.
  3. Growth Rate – generally a lot faster than Japonicas and Reticulatas
  4. Flowers – lots of them although generally a lot smaller than Japonicas and Reticulatas..

Camellia Japonica and Camellia Reticulata

A formal Camellia Japonica flowerJaponica is the “traditional” Camellia species, known for its larger – although still serrated – leaves. The floral display is far more showy than Camellia Sasanqua. The flowers are generally larger, and come in a wider variety of forms compared to Sasanquas eg formal singles and doubles are a norm among many cultivars. Reticulata is where you get into dinner plate sized flowers.

Japonica and Reticulata flowers will also stay on the plant longer, and generally fall to the ground whole rather than shattering. It’s for this reason Japonicas are often used as cut flowers, unlike Sasanquas. They also flower later than Sasanquas, generally not commencing until mid to late winter and finishing in early spring.

If you’re thinking of a Japonica for a hedge, make sure to give it plenty of room to grow, and make sure you don’t cut them too hard as you’ll sacrifice flowers. Reticulatas are not well known as hedge plants, mainly because they have a far more open and woody growth habit.

Camellia Japonica Hedge Check-list

  1. Large Leaf – This is part of the reason why they’ll need more room
  2. Growth Habit – A little more open than a Sasanqua, so needs the width to bush out.
  3. Growth Rate – This one tends to kill the hedge idea. Japonicas are particularly slow growing.
  4. Flowers – If you have patience and time, you will be rewarded with some of the best flowers on offer.

We wouldn’t recommend Reticulatas for hedging. There have been some improvements in hybrids, but nothing to suggest a fabulous hedging alternative yet.

Camellia Hedge – The Final Word

Unless you have bucket-loads of space and about the same amount of time, leave Camellia Japonicas and Reticulatas to the showy specimen job in the garden. They’re good at it!

Long Camellia hedge in full flowerCamellia Sasanqua is a species that almost makes our “Common Hedge Plants” list. A Sasanqua hedge has many of the same advantages of Murraya and Lilly Pilly. Its slower growth rate is generally what leaves it on the “Rarer” section of Garden Hedge.

That said, Camellia Sasanqua has a much faster growth rate compared to Japonica and Reticulata plus other hedging advantages . A lot depends on your situation. More particularly, do you have the patience for a Sasanqua hedge OR the funds to purchase more mature plants for a ready-made hedge? If the answer is yes, then Camellia Sasanquas should be considered along with Murrayas and co.

 SasanquaJaponicaReticulata
Leaf SizeSmall - MediumLargeLarge
Flower SizeMediumLargeDinner Plate
Flower TypeGenerally informal singleSingles, Doubles, Formal, InformalSingles, Doubles, Formal, Informal
Flower AgeingShatterFall wholeFall whole
Growth RateMediumSlowSlow
Growth HabitTight with arching branchesLarger and more openOpen and woody
Hedge PossibilityYesMaybeNo

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