If you love camellias, you don’t have to wait until winter to enjoy them. This old-fashioned shrub with its showy blossoms has a distant cousin that turns heads all summer long.
Stewartia, Stewartia pseudocamellia, is known as the summer camellia or false camellia. There are both Korean and Japanese varieties, and both of these deciduous trees are related to the Camellia and Franklinia families.
In spring, this small- to medium-sized, pyramidal-shaped tree—which can grow up to 40 feet tall—displays medium- to dark green leaves. By late June, large, plump buds unfurl white blossoms closely resembling camellia flowers. The flowers, about three inches across, contain yellow to orange stamens and continue to bloom into August. In autumn, the leaves turn stunning shades of orange, red and even purple for about three weeks before falling, revealing exfoliating bark.
Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia var. japonica) produces cup-shaped blossoms, while Korean Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia var. koreana) features flowers that are flat.
Hardy to zone 5, Stewartias prefer full sun but can tolerate part shade as well. Slow growers, they perform best when given rich organic soil that is well-drained. Give them consistent moisture throughout the year.
Because of its showy flowers, Stewartia is an excellent specimen plant for the garden but also makes a nice companion for border plants.