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Plant type Shrubs
Plant Uses Border, Cut Flower

Best uses

Best used as a specimen shrub in a woodland style garden or in a mixed border. Also good for cut and dried flowers. Excellent for providing a screen for a few plants in the lawn, or in a mixed shrub border. Could also be used as an informal hedge.

Physical characteristics

A medium-sized deciduous shrub that grows up to 1.8m high.

Flowers and foliage

Masses of small white flowers bloom in large spherical heads up to 30cm across from summer through to autumn. The leaves are bright green and broadly ovate.

Preferred site

Grow in moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Can endure harsh winter cold and is drought-resistant.

Preparation for planting

Always choose healthy, well-grown plants. Plant after autumn rains when the soil is moist and warm, allowing trees and shrubs to become established before winter. Planting success is often improved on clay soils by adding extra topsoil and forming raised beds. Incorporate coarse sand, bark and compost to improve soil structure. Before planting, ensure that the root ball is saturated and remove planter pot with minimal root disturbance. Trim any broken roots or branches and plant at the same level as in the container. Long term, slow-release fertilisers may be added at this stage. As soil is placed in the prepared hole, tread firmly to bring soil in close contact with the root ball. Water thoroughly, making sure that moisture penetrates to the depth of the root ball.

Planting too closely leads to spindly growth, poor flowering and eventual decline. In a well-planned border, flowering plants should just touch each other to create a full effect without overcrowding. Plant approximately 1.5m apart.

Maintenance tips

Apply mulch annually to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Organic material, such as sawdust and bark, contribute to soil structure. However, make sure to keep mulch away from plant stems. The first summer and autumn after planting are critical for young plants, so water thoroughly during dry periods. A light application (50g/m2) of general-purpose fertiliser in spring is beneficial. Sprinkle evenly and work into the top 2 to 3cm of the soil, taking care not to damage surface roots.

Prune off any old flowers after flowering. Delay pruning until the danger of frost has passed, as the spent flowers and leaves protect buds from damage. All canes that have flowered and thin, crowded and damaged shoots should be cut to the base. Leave shoots which have not flowered, as these will flower next season. Check regularly for pests and diseases, which can have serious debilitating effects on young plants.

Ecological and biodiversity benefits

Attracts bees and pollinators.

Pests and diseases

Root rot can occur in warm moist climates so make sure there's good drainage to prevent it from setting in. Aphids hydrangea scale may be a problem. Grey mould, slugs, powdery mildew, rust ringspot virus and leaf spots may also need attention in some areas.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Camellia Garden