Grow

Sasanqua camellias

Camellia

The autumn/early winter-flowering sasanqua camellia is also known as the tough camellia. It’s the one that will cope with sun, is faster growing and can be hedged or shaped to suit a wide variety of positions in the garden. Sasanquas also belong to that group of plants that will perform and flower in reasonably deep shade.

Sasanqua flowers come in traditional camellia shades of pink, white and cerise. The fragile-looking blooms can be single, double or something in between. Some are ‘self-grooming’ which means they shed their mature flowers. Others hang onto the dead blooms for a while, giving the plants an unattractive, ‘dirty washing’ appearance.

Much recent breeding work has produced a range of sasanquas in sizes that range from ground covers to tall, upright growers that make excellent screening hedges. Other cultivars have flexible, somewhat pendulous growth that makes them ideal for espalier work. Espalier is the term for training plants flat against a fence or wall and removing outward shoots so that the growth stays in a single plane. This is a brilliant way to soften and decorate a blank wall in the garden.

Caring for sasanquas

Like all camellias, sasanquas prefer slightly acid soil that is rich in organic matter. Dig some pulverised cow manure or pre-moistened peat moss into the soil before planting. For pots, choose a quality potting mix (such as Yates Professional) and a good-sized pot. Unless the plant is very small, the pot should be a minimum 40cm across.

Keep a layer of organic mulch over the root area and top it up at least once a year. Feed the plant with a suitable fertiliser. Yates Acticote is good for feeding pots but, if you want an organic touch, Dynamic Lifter Plus Flower Food is a specially blended combination of composted chicken manure and added nutrients.

In spite of their reputation for toughness, sasanquas dislike hot, dry positions. In warmer climates, they’ll be easier to grow in a shaded position.

All camellias can suffer from scale attack. Keep an eye out for scale insects (they have a protective coating) and possibly the accompanying sooty mould. Treat with Bug Oil (RTU) or Conqueror Oil concentrate (certified organic). Once the scale goes, the sooty mould will gradually disappear. Sap sucking thrips can discolour the foliage, especially in dry situations. Water through the leaves regularly and spray new growth with Nature’s Way Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental a few times a year.

Sasanquas can also be affected by a spring problem that causes the new leaves to thicken and take on the appearance of cauliflower ears. Remove and bin affected leaves.

Prune sasanquas after flowering or at any other time that takes your fancy. Remember, though, late summer/autumn pruning will reduce blooming.


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