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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, too, belong to that valuable group of plants that will grow 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 (pictured) or something in between. Some are ‘self-grooming’ which means they shed their mature flowers. Others hang onto the dead blooms for a while.

Much recent breeding work has produced a selection 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 Yates Dynamic Lifter Organic Plant Food into the soil before planting to enrich the soil and provide gentle slow release nutrients to the new plant. If your soil is alkaline you can adjust a small area with applications of Yates Soil Acidifier Liquid Sulfur. In dry areas (or in pots), it’s a good idea to also add some pre-swollen Yates Waterwise Water Storage Crystals. For pots, choose a quality potting mix (such as Yates Professional) and a good-sized container. 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. This will help keep the shallow camellia roots cool and moist. It’s important to feed camellias regularly to keep them looking at their best. Yates Thrive Liquid Roses & Flowers is great for feeding both potted and in-ground camellias. It encourages healthy leaf growth and also lots of beautiful flowers.

In spite of their reputation for toughness, sasanquas dislike hot, dry positions. In warmer climates, they’re best kept in a shady spot and given a protective spray with Yates DroughtShield whenever hot weather is predicted.

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. You might also see ants, which like to feed on the sweet honeydew that scale produces. Spray with Confidor or Yates Scale Gun to control the insects. 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 Confidor a few times a year.

Sasanquas can also be affected by a spring fungal 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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