I profess no particular expertise or intimate knowledge to encourage spring and autumn flowering camellias, though I happily tout success with both with several growing to ten feet and taller with long periods of bloom. This is a small collection of no more than ten or twelve species and hybrids, but all seem quite happy, and in recent years all have flowered splendidly in part sun and shade.
Certainly, there have been times when temperatures falling below zero (Fahrenheit) have frozen fat buds and ruined the spring bloom, but with well established plants and milder recent winters flowering has been dependable. No matter the cold, foliage of spring or autumn flowering camellias has not been harmed in this northwestern Virginia garden.
When first planting camellias, I cautiously opted for only the hardiest autumn flowering hybrids, and while I’ve been encouraged to stretch the limits a bit, space is now limited. Yes, it’s likely I’ll add a few more, but space is tight and I’ve seen first hand that camellias grow quite large, so there will be no more than a few that must find the sunniest spots in areas that are likely to be a bit too shaded. I’ve had my eye on several Sasanqua camellias, but these are marginally cold hardy, and I am not yet convinced that temperatures to zero and below are gone forever.
Areas with sufficient sunlight are limited, and camellias stretched into more shaded spots display many fewer flowers. The ideal seems to be a few hours break from the afternoon sun, and most in the garden in this situation are autumn flowering hybrids, the Winter series developed for cold hardiness since these are the most exposed.
The autumn bloom, that dependably begins in October, extends into December, and without extreme temperatures, into January. In a very mild winter, a ‘Winter’s Star’ and ‘Winter’s Interlude’ that are more shaded and often tardy in flowering, will bloom through all but the coldest periods of January and February so that there is only a short break before spring bloomers (Camellia japonica) begin to flower.