Give gardeners a camellia as Valentine’s Day treat

Published 8:53 am Monday, February 12, 2024

By Eddie Smith
MSU Extension Service

I recently had the pleasure of exploring Mr. Jim Smelley’s impressive camellia collection with some of the Pearl River County Master Gardeners. I began thinking about how these beautiful plants with their gorgeous blooms could be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for plant lovers.

Mr. Jim, who is in his 90s, proudly showcased his collection of more than 500 varieties of camellias he has been growing and propagating for more than 60 years. He even bred his own variety of camellia and gave it his name, the Jim Smelley camellia.

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You don’t have to become a master of camellias like Mr. Jim to enjoy them in your own yard or give them away.

Camellia japonica, or Japanese camellia, is the perfect gift that keeps on giving. This camellia has large, romantic blooms in hues of red, pink or white that can turn any winter garden into a living work of art. There are even camellia varieties with variegated blooms that come in combinations of pink, red or white on one bloom.

If your Valentine has a green thumb, they’ll appreciate the care and attention camellias need. These beauties shine their brightest when given some TLC.

Find a cozy spot with partial shade — camellias thrive when they catch a break from the intense sun. Make sure the soil is well-draining and slightly acidic, and you’ve got the perfect setting for your camellia to flourish. Water them regularly, especially during dry spells, and toss some mulch around their roots to keep them happy.

With thousands of camellia varieties out there, you’ve got a smorgasbord of choices.

Imagine presenting your Valentine with a camellia like Cile Mitchell that has double-layered, pink blooms that resemble a fancy rose. Or Lauren Tudor is a showstopper with its massive, soft pink blooms that have dark pink flecks and stripes.

My personal favorite is Burgundy Rose. This camelia has deep burgundy-red petals and a hint of regal purple on the edges of the petals. It’s like a piece of botanical art.

And if your Valentine is a bit of a rebel, go for a multihued camellia like Magic City, a ‘60s creation with bright red, funky variations in its flowers.

If you’re looking for a unique and thoughtful Valentine’s Day gift for your loved one, consider surprising them with a stunning camellia plant this year instead of the usual bouquet of flowers.

A living plant is not just a gift; it’s a living reminder of your love that will continue to bloom and bring joy for years to come.