Camellias are showy plants, offering long lasting blooms during the late fall and winter, lasting well into the spring. Their large flowers brighten up your landscape during those winter months when little else is blooming. The blooms are profuse and cover the entire bush making it the superstar of any landscape.
There are numerous species of Camellias but the most popular varieties grown are Camellia Sasasanqua and Camellia Japonica. These 2 varieties have similarities in their flower color but bloom at different times of the season. Camellia Sasanqua will bloom from late Fall through early January and Camellia Japonica will bloom January through early Spring.
Camellias are known as a shade loving plants, but the Sasanqua can handle some sun. It’s smaller than the Japonica in overall size (6’ tall and wide to 10’ tall and 6’ wide) and has smaller leaves and flowers. Blooms are 3” – 4” in diameter, are sweet smelling and usually have ruffled edges with a burst of yellow color in their center.
Japonicas prefer shade and are taller (12’+ for old mature plants) than Sasanquas. Their flowers boast more petals, are often 5” wide and are stunning. A single bush can have well over 100 flowers for weeks, blooming consistently from January through early spring.
Both varieties offer striation or multicolored blooms, but most camellias bloom in one of three colors – white, pink or red, – in many shades from the palest shell pink to rose pink to bright red.
These slow growing evergreens are relatively care-free. They should only require pruning after they finish blooming. Fertilize at the same time and again in mid-summer. Camellias are prone to Scale and treating yearly with a horticultural spray or drench will help control these pests.
Consider adding camellias to your landscape if you haven’t already. By planting both varieties you can enjoy the “Queen of winter flowers” from late fall through Spring.
Do you have bare spots in your yard where grass won’t grow? Under a large tree that is too shady for grass? A slope or steep area? If you’ve answered “YES!” to any of these questions, you may need a groundcover to solve your issue.
What is a groundcover? The definitive answer would be “Any one of a group of low-lying plants with a creeping, spreading habit that are used to cover sections of ground with minimal maintenance.”
Groundcovers can be used in so many ways:
- mass plantings in your actual landscape,
- adding color to a rock garden,
- use in skinny walkway beds,
- introducing new colors and textures to your garden beds,
- erosion area
Also known as ‘Bugleweed’
This evergreen perennial (stays green all year) has a ground-hugging habit of growth. Ajuga sends up beautiful electric blue blooms that rise above its foliage from mid to late spring. It attracts butterflies but not deer. Ajuga loves to spread, plant in part-shade, and watch her thrive!
Also known as ‘Maleberry’
Japanese Ardisia shows off a rich, green color and dainty clusters of pink star-shaped flowers at the ends of its branches during spring, and red berries in mid fall. This multi-stemmed evergreen shrub is perfect for areas that are shaded, moist and cool. Reaching a spread of 3 feet, this part-shade to full shade lover makes for an excellent groundcover (and an excellent houseplant!).
Also known as ‘Carex’
Sedge is a vigorous, mound-forming evergreen with striking, grassy foliage. The gracefully arching stems of this plant bring a fine and delicate addition to any garden. This groundcover is relatively low-maintenance, and does well in partial shade or full shade, and spreads up to 16 inches. Many native varieties of Sedge cultivar are right here among us in East Texas! Sedge makes a great border edging, mass planting, and also works well in mixed containers.
Also known as ‘Heuchera’
Coral Bells is an evergreen perennial with tall flower stalks held atop a low mound of foliage. These tiny, delicate flowers come in as many colors as its foliage does, from lime green to purple! This low-growing plant is relatively low-maintenance and a good choice for attracting butterflies. Coral Bells are perfect for containers, mass plantings, borders and rock gardens. This evergreen can take full sun or full shade and can spread up to 18 inches.
Showing out in a rich, emerald color, Pachysandra is an evergreen that looks amazing year-round. Spreading up to 1 ½ feet at maturity, this perennial does best in part shade to morning sun. The bold, dark green leaves make for a fantastic groundcover, or border for walkways. Small, bright white flowers appear in early spring – though not particularly showy, the flowers offer an ornate addition against the green background.
‘Blue Rug’ Juniper
This ground-hugging Juniper features silvery-blue foliage that takes on a nearly purple tinge during winter and produces blue berries from late spring to late winter. A dense, multi-stemmed evergreen, ‘Blue Rug’ Juniper is extremely adaptable and hardy – making for a great groundcover or border, or even trailing over walls. A lover of full sun to part shade, this Juniper can reach a spread of up to 7 feet!
Also known as ‘Moss Phlox’
Creeping Phlox puts on a show of bright, cherry red, blue or white star-shaped flowers at the ends of the stems from early to late spring. It’s tiny, needle-like leaves remain green in color throughout the year. This evergreen blanket of flowers does best in full sun to part-shade, which makes it perfect for border edging, mass planting or general ground cover. At maturity, Creeping Phlox can spread up to 18 inches.
Ground cover sedums are a form of succulents that are winter hardy and stay green throughout the year. These are heat loving plants that grow well in full sun or partial sun and are drought tolerant! They come in a variety of colors, some have variegated leaves and bloom in late Summer through Fall. Use in rock gardens, as ground cover in landscape beds, as spillers in containers or in hanging baskets.
Also known as ‘Ice Plant’
This is a multi-purpose plant with succulent type foliage. It blooms in bright colors from Spring through Fall, stays green throughout the winter, loves full sun and heat but will also perform in partial sun. Good for rock gardens, a spiller in containers, and in hanging baskets.
Standard Mondo Grass
This old standby is an evergreen perennial with grass like stems and small purple flower spikes which bloom throughout the Spring and Summer. It is slow growing and spreads through runners. It can be easily divided and moved to other areas and requires minimal care once established. Mass plantings are striking – giving the appearance of a deep green lawn. Plant in shade or part shade.
This woody stemmed favorite grows well in a variety of soils and conditions. It is a great erosion control on slopes and on the side of creeks or ditches. It can be cut with a weedeater or even with a mower set on the highest setting if it becomes too tall for the area. Plant in partial sun to full sun.
Another shade loving groundcover which keeps its dark green color year-round. This plant runs along the ground and sets roots along the stem. It can become invasive and grow up into trees if not contained.
Evergreen flowering herb that is covered with a blanket of pink-purple blossoms in the Spring. It can handle some light foot traffic and reaches a height of 3”. Grows in full sun to partial shade.
Keeping with the theme of low growing shrubs here are two groups – those for shady spots and for sunny to partial sun areas.
Mojo Pittosporum – Evergreen, low mounding shrub with light green and cream variegated leaves. It is salt tolerant, deer resistant, and has orange smelling blossoms in the Spring.
Soft Caress Mahonia – This airy plant has bamboo-like foliage and bright yellow flowers at the top of the plant that bloom in early winter.
Carex or Sedge – Mounding, grass like plant that can be used as accents or planted in multiples to give year round color to a shady garden. Most varieties offer variegated or striped leaves.
Wheelers Dwarf Pittosporum Dark green, glossy leafed, mounding shrub that requires almost no trimming.
Dwarf Hydrangea – Enjoy beautiful Hydrangea blossoms on smaller plant varieties available now. In blue, pink, or white, they will brighten up your garden.
Sun to Partial Sun:
Little John Bottlebrush – The bright red flowers which resemble a bottle cleaning brush is where this plant gets its name. It blooms intermittently throughout the Spring and into the Fall. The foliage is narrow and blue green and is deer resistant.
Multi-Blooming Azaleas – multiple colors (red, white, pinks, and purple) are available in plants 2’ – 3’ tall. They will bloom 3-4 times during the year bringing color to your landscape or containers.
Dwarf Spirea – Several varieties are available with different leaf color – dark green, lime green, golden yellow – with blooms during Spring and Summer.
Drift Roses – One of the most popular shrubs. They bloom from Spring to late Fall in a variety of colors – red, peach, apricot, white and pink.
Dwarf Abelia – Evergreen foliage in either variegated or solid green colors. Cluster of small, fragrant, white flowers bloom from late Spring to early Fall.
- Elaeagnus – terrible name, great plant! The silver-green leaf color gives you great contrast in your landscape. Highly drought tolerant once established and can
handle almost any soil conditions. They grow quickly to a 8’x8’ and taller and thrive in full sun or part sun. They are DEER RESISTANT too!!
- Southern Wax Myrtle – Olive-green aromatic foliage makes this plant stand out along with the bluish berries
produced by the female plants. The standard size will reach 15 feet tall while the dwarf species reaches 6-8 feet tall. It is drought tolerant once established and grows well in both moist and dry soil conditions. n full sun or part shade. They are DEER RESISTANT too!!
- Pineapple Guava – Beautiful, exotic red and white flowers bloom on this large shrub in the spring, followed by guava fruit in the fall. The leaves are light green,
leathery with soft gray undersides. It will grow to about 15’ – 20’ tall in full sun or partial sun. Deer do not seem to bother these plants.
- Nellie R Stevens Holly – Very attractive holly with dark green, leathery foliage. Dense branching
makes it an excellent hedge screen. It produces large, bright orange-red berries in late Fall. Fast growing tree/shrub reaching heights of 15’- 25’. Grows well in sun or partial sun in both dry and moist soil conditions.
- Leyland Cypress – A fast-growing coniferous evergreen tree – up to 3’ of growth per year. Has a natural Christmas tree shape but
can be grown close together and trimmed as hedges. Prefers full sun for best performance. This tree can reach 50+ feet if left untrimmed.
It’s easy to do – planting small plants too close together. It’s hard to believe that 12” plant will be 4-5’ tall and wide within a few years. You might try pruning to maintain them for a while, but that gets really tiring and the plant doesn’t look right when it isn’t allowed to grow to its preferred size.
We all want instant gratification so here’s some tips on how to create a fuller looking landscape while waiting on your shrubs to reach maturity:
- Plant small annual flowers in groupings of 3s to fill gaps between your shrubs and edge of the bed. This will also add a pop of color to your landscape.
- Plant small annual flowers in front of your shrubs to form a colorful border.
- Use liriope as accent plants – either as a border or in groupings.
- Plant larger annuals (coleus, penta, dusty miller) which can grow to 1’ tall and wide in the bed to take up empty space.
- Mulch your bed, besides helping retain moisture and block out weeds it gives the bed a finished look.
When setting out your plants in your flowerbed read the plant tag and plan on the plant reaching the largest size. We have a long growing season and most plants will reach their full maturity size in our area.
Choose plants that will not require frequent pruning to “fit” into your space. There are so many different species of plants in all textures and sizes to choose from. Make sure and ask questions when choosing your plants.
A word of caution – the plant tag gives general information about the plant. The same tag is used nationally and the plant can perform differently depending upon the climate of the area. Not all plants like our Texas summer heat but this will not be listed on the plant tag. Again, ask questions if you are unsure if a plant is right for a specific area.
To summarize – make sure to measure when planting your shrubs and plan for their growth. Use the tips to make the bed look fuller until the shrubs mature. Ask questions and ask for help when making your plant choices. Follow these steps and you will have a beautiful landscape you can enjoy for years to come.