It is hard for me to imagine a more perfect Christmas plant for the landscape than “Yuletide” camellia. When you think about the colors of Christmas, red, green and gold are front and center — and “Yuletide” puts them all on display.
The green is most obvious and that is the deep evergreen foliage that would make you want the plant for the bones or structure of your home landscape even if it never bloomed. You may be surprised to know they can eventually get 6- to- 8 feet tall and wide.
The red blooms that are about 3 inches wide are the perfect shade for Christmas. They are produced so abundantly it would be hard to count them all. They start in late October and crescendo into a spectacle by Christmas.
Bright golden stamens are produced in the center of the flowers in such quantities that they give a dazzling highly ornamental look to the plant. You will quickly notice that these blossoms seem to be nature’s gift to late season pollinators, bees and a variety of butterflies.
Botanically speaking, “Yuletide” has forever been considered a Camellia sasanqua and 90 percent of the industry sells it that way. It will always be so to me, too. In reality, it was a chance seedling of Hiryu, a Camellia vernalis hybrid.
I’ll do what I usually do and avoid the taxonomic argument like the plague and simply tell you that if you live in zones 7-9 — yep, that’s us! — this is a must-have-plant. Indoors you must have poinsettias, outdoors it is “Yuletide” camellia.
“Yuletide” is recommended for full to part sun. Fertile, organic-rich, acidic soil is best. These were the first shrubs planted in my new landscape and I can tell you they can thrive in heavier soil conditions but good drainage is paramount.
When planting, make your holes three times the width of the pot and plant with the top of the rootball 1-to-2 inches above the soil surface. Don’t count on rain, water, and apply a good layer of mulch. Fall is a terrific time to plant and your local nursery typically has a great selection of camellias this time of the year.
You will love the pyramidal habit these camellias have in their early years before getting somewhat broader. Though they will eventually reach 6-feet plus, they are nevertheless considered compact.
You may see them used in mixed containers at the finest shopping or lifestyle centers, welcoming all who come to shop or eat at the restaurants.
In the landscape, they scream to be grown with hollies like “Christmas Jewel,” a champion in red berry production, or “Robin,” both of which exhibit their own Christmas tree shape. By all means, add some late blooming Encore azaleas like “Autumn Bravo” or the shorter “Autumn Ruby.”
See where I’m headed? A landscape peaking in color for your family during the holiday season. But there are a couple of more shrubs that I think would tie it all together and those are conifers. There is just something about the texture of conifers.
A golden conifer like the 10- to- 12-foot “Ever Goldy” would echo the color of the bright golden stamens of the “Yuletide” and standout in dramatic fashion with the dark green foliage of its companions. Lastly, consider sweeps or drifts of “Yewtopia,” plum yews reaching 3-feet-tall and adding a fine texture with their short green needles.
“Yuletide” camellia is one of the most beloved shrubs of all time and perfect for the beginning of your Christmas landscape. Now is the time to shop.
Norman Winter is a horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook at NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.