Stewartia, Japanese Stewartia, produces glorious fall color and lovely summer flowers. Get stewartia facts and info on how to grow this glorious flowering tree that gives seasonal interest through all four seasons of the year.
Stewartia pseudocamellia is a deciduous flowering tree with leaves that turn a warm, rich hue in fall. Young stewartias are narrow and columnar, but with maturity, the crown becomes more oval. They can be grown as specimens in front lawns instead of the typical flowering cherry tree. You will find that many times ornamental cherries and flowering plum trees will soon become Japanese beetle bait in July. On the other hand, summer time for stewartia means flowers, not beetles.
Stewartia is a four-season plant, with orange-gold to deep ruby red fall foliage and peeling, colorful bark. Fall color varies some from tree to tree. The best way to ensure good fall color is to see how a tree colors up before taking it home.
Japanese stewartia trees have foliage in alternate and simple patterns. The 4” x 2 1/2”, dark green leaves are tapered and toothed. In fall, they take onan orange to deep red color. The ornamental bark is reddish brown, peeling to expose a pink, cream, and gray inner bark, particularly on old trees. The trunk is smooth and muscled, with skinlike creases.
Stewartia pseudocamillia Flowers
In midsummer (June or July), stewartia produces 2 1/2” white, camellia-like blossoms in the leaf joints by 1s and 2s in rapid sequence. The flowers have 5 petals and a central boss of bright yellow stamens. The fruit capsules are not ornamental.
Use stewartia trees as front-yard specimens, near decks, patios, and windows where you can see the bark. They do well along lightly shaded paths in woodland gardens or as an understory below large trees.
Origin: Mountainous forests of Japan
Hardiness Zones: Zone 5-8
Light: Full sun in cooler climates to partial shade.
Soil: Moist, fertile, well-drained, organic soils
Growing: Transplant when young
Stewartias are trouble-free in all seasons, although older plants may be difficult to establish and it will not tolerate drought or the heat of the southern gardens.
Other Stewartia Varieties to Consider
Stewartia monadelpha (tall stewartia) is grown for its stunning, cinnamon-colored, flaking bark. This heat tolerant tree produces little white blooms up to 1 1/2” wide in June. Monadelpha is the best choice for southern gardens. It will grow 25’-35’ h x 20’-25’w in Zones 6-8.
Stewartia pseudocamellia ‘Ballet’ has bigger blooms (3”-4”) and a more graceful and spreading form. It will grow to 15’h x 12’w. in ten years.
Stewartia pseudocamellia Koreana Group (Korean stewartia) (syn. S. koreana) has wide-open, white flowers with showy yellow stamens in midsummer. It has excellent red fall color on some plants and a smooth trunk with flaking ornamental bark in gray, orange-pink, and brown. Very similar to species. Will grown 20’-40’h x 15’-20’w. In Zones 5-8.