Camellias are best known for their large array of flower colors and forms. Native to Southeast Asia, camellias have found a welcome home in the South as well as the West Coast. Depending on the species and climate, camellias may begin blooming as early as October and are usually finished blooming by April. Most camellias are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, although some individual varieties may be hardy to zone 6 or lower. Commercially available species are usually hybrids or cultivars of Camellia japonica or Camellia sasanqua.
Single White Flowers
Single flowers have five petals and a central fluff of yellow stamens. Camellia sasanqua begins blooming in late fall to early winter, and many varieties bear single flowers. "French Vanilla" has very large white flowers, and "Blanchette" bears single, thin-petalled flowers with a light fragrance. Camellia japonicas flower later in the season, usually early spring. "Devonia" bears medium single flowers and a small central yellow fluff of stamens, and "Wark's White Single" bears medium-sized single flowers and hails from Australia. Single white hybrids (crosses of two species) include "Survivor," which bears single flowers with a slight pink tinge and hardiness down to USDA zone 6, and "Vernal Breeze," with very fragrant blooms.
Semi-Double White Flowers
Semi-double flowers have about 10 petals. They look fuller than single flowers but not as full as doubles. Camellia sasanqua varieties include "Mine-No-Yuki" (also known as White Doves or Snow on the Mountain), with a spreading habit and profuse blooming, "Setsugekka" (also known as Moon and Flowers), with a large, upright habit, and "Dwarf Shishi White," with tiny white flowers. Camellia japonica varieties include "Queen Bessie," with large flowers bearing a slight pink blush, and "Dear Jenny" and "Noblissima," which both have flowers with a few central petaloids. The hybrid "Winter's Hope" is fragrant and hardy down to USDA zone 6.
Anemone Form White Flowers
Anemone form flowers are interesting as well as beautiful. A collar of single or semi-double petals surrounds a fluffy center of smaller petaloids. Sometimes the central petals are a slightly different color than the outer petals. Camellia japonica "Man Size" is a miniature plant with small flowers that are entirely white. Several hybrids bred to withstand USDA zone 6 have anemone form flowers, such as "Polar Ice" and "Scented Snow," which produce a small amount of central petaloids. "Scented Snow" is fragrant.
Double White Flowers
The double flower form can be either informal or formal. Informal flowers display over twice the amount of petals as single forms, and formal doubles have petals that appear arranged and lay a little flatter on the flower. Camellia sasanqua varieties with double flowers include "Fuji-No-Mine" (also known as "Peak of Mt. Fuji"), with scented informal flowers, and "October Magic Snow," which has a compact habit and informal flowers with a pink tinge. Camellia japonica varieties include "Alba Plena," an old formal double from the year 1792, "Sea Foam," a formal double with an upright habit, and "Daijokhan," an informal double from the Nagoya Palace in Japan. The hybrid "Winter's Waterlily" is hardy down to USDA zone 6 and bears formal double flowers with a slight pink tinge.
Peony- and Rose-Form White Flowers
Both peony-form and rose-form flowers are similar in petal quantity. Both have double flowers, but the peony form appears fluffy and has a central fluff, while the rose form is more cupped and resembles a rose or gardenia. The "Snow Flurry" hybrid bears peony-form flowers, while "April Snow" bears rose-form flowers. Both were bred for hardiness and grow well even down to USDA zone 6. Camellia japonica varieties include "Sally Harrell" and "Paeoniflora Alba," both peony-form flower with a few central petaloids. "Elegans Champagne" bears the peony form and is more ivory in color.
- Missouri Botanical Gardens: Camellias
- The United States National Arboretum: Camellias: Expanding Their Territory
- Virginia Camellia Society: Very Cold Hardy Camellias
- University of Florida: Camellias at a Glance
- San Francisco Peninsula Camellia Society: Unusual Sasanquas
- Absolute Wonder: Camellia Sasanqua
- Green Nurseries: Camellias
- Deeproot Plant Base: Camellia Sasanqua "Blanchette"
- Jim's Camellias: Gallery D
- Web Camellia Register: Entry List
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images