Although many plants have colorful and attractive flowers, few match the perfectly formed blossoms of the camellia (Camellia japonica). An Asian native, the camellia is an evergreen that generally blooms from late fall into early spring, bringing stunning blossoms during the cooler seasons. In addition to the classic white camellia, many modern varieties produce intensely-colored or bicolor flowers. Camellia plants grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9 and can live for decades.
A camellia flower can be single, with one row of flat, smooth petals surrounding its center, or double, with many petal rows. Some of the most attractive blossoms are white, standing out boldly against the plant's glossy, dark green leaves. Examples include "Alba Plena," an early bloomer whose flower is fully doubled and has 100 or more pure white petals, and "Morning Glow," a plant that can reach 7 feet tall and 8 feet wide when mature and produces large double flowers that are bright white. The cultivar "White Empress," which can mature to 12 feet in height, displays semi-double flowers with slightly ruffled, white petals surrounding a cluster of deep yellow, prominent stamens.
Many camellia cultivars have flowers in various shades of pink, some in a clear, soft pink and others in deep pink or a salmon fading to pink. "Lady Vansittart," with stiff leaves that resemble those on a holly bush, produces semi-double flowers with wavy petals that shade from white to rose-pink. "Pink Perfection" produces small, perfectly formed, double flowers in smooth, pale pink. "Dr. Tinsley" has bright pink flower buds that open into medium-sized, semi-double flowers in shades of pink that vary from flower to flower. "Taylor's Perfection" has soft-pink flowers, each with orchid shading and a central cluster of brilliant yellow stamens.
Camellia varieties that have red flowers make bold garden statements when in bloom. A variety called "Professor Charles S. Sargent" is a good example with its double, bright scarlet flowers that strut ruffled centers and resemble peony blooms. A large plant, this cultivar can be 10 to 12 feet tall when mature. The cultivar "Kishu-tsubaki" is especially attractive and interesting with leaves that twist at the tips and fragrant, single red flowers. "Blood of China" displays intensely red, semi-double flowers that bloom non-stop from late winter through mid-spring.
Some camellias have flowers that mix two or more colors, either as striping on their petals or in irregular blotching or veining. Examples include "Gigantea," a plant that has especially large, semi-double red flowers marbled in white, and "Rena Swick," which has flowers that are also large and semi-double, but display pink petals with prominent, darkly colored veins. A variety called "Betty Sheffield" has peony-shaped flowers with wavy white petals blotched and striped with pink or red, and a variant of this plant called "Betty Sheffield Supreme" has white flowers on which each petal is edged in pink or rose-red.