The large-flowering trees and shrubs were a real discovery for me. Before, I was used to seeing large flowers only on annuals, but Camellias, Gardenias, and Magnolias turned my perception of the world of flowers upside down.
At the beginning of this article, I want to briefly discuss the origin of these two beautiful plants because that is the first difference between them.
Camellia is a genus that is widespread in Asia and throughout many Pacific island countries. It is named after the scientist Georg Joseph Kamel, who discovered these plants to the public.
Gardenia is also a separate genus, growing in Asia, Africa, and Australia. It gets its name from the botanist Alexander Garden.
|USDA Hardiness zone||6-9||7-11|
|Mature height||6-20 ft (1.8-6 m)||4-12 ft (1.2-3.6 m)|
|Mature width||5-8 ft (1.5-2.4 m)||4-12 ft (1.2-3.6 m)|
|Growth rate||medium||medium, fast|
|Light exposure||shade, partial shade||full sun, partial shade|
|Soil||moist, drained||moist, drained|
|Watering||Two times per week in a drought||One time per week in a drought|
Camelia and Gardenia blooming is different
Flowering is, in my opinion, the most significant difference between Camellia and Gardenia. At first glance, their flowers are similar, but if you dig deeper, you will notice many differences.
Camellia has a more exciting flower’s shape
If we are talking about Camellias and Gardenias as species, their flowers are quite similar. Flower size can vary from 6 to 12 inches. The number of petals averages 10. The only difference is that Camellias have large yellow stamens.
But if we consider varieties of these plants, the picture is quite different.
The flowers of most gardenia cultivars are very similar to those of the species. They have large petals, and there are usually no more than 12 of them. There are unexpressive yellow stamens in the center of the flower.
Depending on the variety, Camellias can have very different flower shapes. The first thing worth mentioning here is the double-flowered camellias. They have many more petals than Gardenias. And you can’t see the stamens in the center.
There are also semi-double camellias and others, which we will talk about in a separate chapter.
Camellia has a wider range of colors
The primary color of gardenias is white. Some varieties may be creamy like Chuck Hayes or yellow like Gloden Magic. But this is quite rare; most gardenias are snowy white or shades of white.
Camellia, on the other hand, offers you a lot more colors to choose from. The primary colors are pink and red. You will also find cultivars of purple, yellow, and white among camellias.
There are even bicolor Camellias. For example, Lavinia Maggi has a crimson-red center and light pink petal tips.
From all this, we can conclude that thanks to the wide range of flower shapes and colors, Camellias can offer you a much wider choice than the Gardenia.
Blooming time is different
Gardenias bloom mostly in spring or summer. Some species bloom from late spring to midsummer, some from early summer to almost autumn. Some Gardenias can rebloom briefly in the fall.
On the other hand, Camellias bloom from fall to spring through the winter, depending on the species and variety. Some can bloom from midsummer to late fall.
If your climate allows you, you can choose several Camellias types and get almost a nine-month flowering period. Simultaneously, the Gardenia can only provide you with beautiful flowers during the summer plus an extra month or two.
Camellia is taller than Gardenia
Both of these plants are shrubby or low bush-like trees, but there are differences as well.
The gardenia is a small shrub up to 6 feet tall. Some gardenia species can exceed 40 feet in height, but they are rarely grown in gardens.
The shape of the gardenia is spherical because its width is equal to its height. You will end up with a medium-sized bush that resembles a large ball. Of course, it depends on the variety; some can be big and some dwarf.
Camellias, on the other hand, are larger plants. Its height easily exceeds 8-15 feet. The feature is that the width is less than the height, so the plant has an elongated shape.
Camellias are generally oval shrubs or small column-shaped trees. This must be taken into account when planting. Camellias need more space than gardenias, although once again, it depends on the variety you choose.
Camellia needs some shade
Gardenia tolerates planting in the full sun better. This plant can take up to 10-12 hours of direct sunlight, but only in hardiness zones 7-8.
If you live in zones 9-11, the gardenia will need a little shade from the scorching afternoon sun. But on the other hand, it needs at least six hours of direct sunlight a day to flower well.
Camellias are less tolerant of sunlight. No matter where you live, it needs partial shade. It should not receive more than 8 hours and no less than 4 hours of direct sunlight.
There are examples of successful camellia cultivation in full sun in USDA hardiness zone 6. But only after the plant has reached maturity and has grown a deep root system.
Camellia needs more water
Neither of these two plants can be called a drought-tolerant plant. They both need slightly moist and drained soil.
Nevertheless, the gardenia can survive short periods of drought a little better. This does not mean that it does not need to be watered.
In the first few years after planting, the gardenia needs watering. Suppose it does not rain for more than 10 days, you need to water gardenia at least once a week. The amount of water can be one gallon or more, depending on the size of the plant.
Camellias are more sensitive to a lack of moisture. And when a deficiency occurs, the plant will respond with faded or scorched leaves. It should definitely be watered, especially if it is young.
In times of drought, water the camellia twice a week with 2 to 3 gallons of water or more if the plant is large. The only time a camellia can more or less do without watering is when it is mature. Usually, at maturity, all plants have extensive roots and can get water from deep.
Gardenia tolerates heat better
Gardenias are more heat-loving than camellias. It can be grown as far north as 8 hardiness zone. Only a few varieties can withstand the frosts of zone 7.
At the same time, gardenias do very well in the south. Some species can only grow in zones 10 and 11. As I mentioned above, gardenias are very sun-tolerant and therefore also heat-tolerant.
Camellias have a slightly different tolerance to heat. I don’t recommend growing it south of zone 9, and it needs shading. But it tolerates low temperatures a bit better and can be grown in zone 6.
So the choice of a plant depends a lot on where you live. If you live in the south, you might want to go with a gardenia, but a camellia is the right choice if you’re a bit further north.
Camellia has way more cultivars
Gardenias offer a much smaller variety of colors and shapes than camellias.
Today there are about a hundred and fifty species of gardenia and a little over two hundred cultivars. Most of them are white in color.
I have already mentioned yellow gardenias, оne of the most intense yellow ones is Gardenia volkensii. There is also Gardenia carinata, which is interesting because its petals can turn orange. And that’s where the variety ends.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like the pure white gardenia flowers, but what Camellia offers is completely another level.
The genus Camellia has about 300 species, the most popular of which is Camellia japonica. Thanks to breeders’ efforts, today, you can see the most comprehensive assortment of camellias of more than 3000 varieties.
The process of hybridization has led to selecting new forms of flowers—something like the peonies.
The most successful was the creation of double-blossoms camellias, which have very dense flowers due to many petals. This is a tremendous advantage of camellia; unfortunately, neither gardenias nor even magnolias can offer anything like that. One of the best varieties in this category is Camellia Les Jury.
Some semi-double blossoms camellias have fewer petals than the previous type but have prominent yellow stamens in the center of the flower. This is where you might want to look at Camelia Spring Mist.
Some camellias resemble the flowers of roses or peonies.
The number of colors a camellia can be colored in is enormous, and their saturation is very high. There are also some with bicolor and even tricolor petals, like the Camellia japonica Tricolor.
I can definitely say that camellia is much more varied than gardenia. And if you are a fan of bright colors, then you have to choose camellia for sure.