With flowers from late summer to winter, sasanqua camellias make a long impact on the garden. Their flowers, which may be white, pink or red and range from single to double, are also attractive to nectar-eating birds including parrots and to beneficial insects. Many sasanquas are also lightly perfumed and can be picked for a floral arrangement.

In the garden, sasanqua camellias grow as evergreen shrubs from a compact one metre high to more than four metres high. Large forms left unpruned may become small trees. Sasanquas can be grown as specimen plants but their ideal role in the garden is to be grown as dwarf, medium or tall hedges. Camellias can also be grown in large containers in a courtyard, on a deck, or as statement plants at the main entrance to your home. Where space is restricted, train them as espaliers flat against a wall. They can also be shaped as topiary balls or as more fanciful forms.

Camellias for hedges

Sasanqua camellias form a dense evergreen hedge 2 to 3 metres tall in three to five years. When selecting camellias for hedging, choose named varieties that grow to the height and width required and space them 50 to 90 centimetres apart. Install a drip or micro-spray irrigation system along the length of the hedge to aid watering. Use stakes to support the new plants. The stakes can be removed as the trunk thickens after the first year.

One of the fastest-growing varieties for a hedge is ‘Plantation Pink’, which has single pink flowers. It is also suited to espalier.

Other reliable choices for tall hedges include ‘Jennifer Susan’ (pale pink double flowers), ‘Paradise Emily’ (pink semi-double flowers), ‘Paradise Jennifer’ (white semi-double flowers edged with pink) and ‘Pure Silk’ (white informal-double flowers flushed with pink). All grow to around 3 to 4 metres high.

For a low-growing one-metre-high hedge, select ‘Paradise Little Liane’ (white double flowers), ‘Paradise Sylvia’ (crimson-red single flowers) or another dwarf camellia.

Planting and ongoing care

Camellias can be planted year round, but the best planting time is autumn to winter. Sasanqua camellias thrive in slightly acidic soil (a pH of around 5 to 6) with several buckets of compost and aged manure dug in before planting. Regular moisture while they become established is vital, but well-established plants are drought tolerant and can withstand dry periods.

They grow in light shade but also tolerate full sun. A site with morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal.

In areas with alkaline soil (pH above 7) grow camellias in large containers filled with a potting mix for acid-loving plants.

Prune sasanquas after flowering in late winter. Tip: pruning encourages a bushy plant, while harder pruning is used to shape a hedge. Hard pruning is used to renovate sparse, leggy or oversized plants. Avoid pruning between summer and autumn when sasanquas are forming buds.

Fertilise sasanqua camellias in late winter or early spring after pruning and as new growth appears. Use a specialist camellia food or a slow-release fertiliser for flowering shrubs. As well, apply a 2 to 3 centimetre layer of organic mulch mixed with well-rotted manure over the root system to help keep the soil moist and cool. Water plants deeply before applying fertiliser or mulch.