By Christy Jones
This evergreen flowering plant in the tea family grows throughout the world, although it is native to southern and eastern parts of Asia. To thrive, it requires regular watering, moist, well-drained soil, and partial shade. Although beloved by gardeners across the Gulf Coast, this tough shrub can grow at altitudes of nearly 5,000 feet.
There are more than 300 species and 3,000 cultivars of this plant.
Depending on the variety, it can grow into a small bush or large tree up to 65 feet, and produce showy blooms during the fall, winter, and early spring. Flowers range in size from 4 to 5 inches in shades of white, cream, yellow, red, and pink, with yellow stamens at the center. Some cultivars produce double flowers resembling roses or peonies that are popular with collectors. Mercer has more than 200 of these plants displayed throughout the East Side gardens.
The flowers are not fragrant, but they attract bees, thanks to vividly colored petals and heavy pollen production during the cooler months, when many other plants are dormant. Coco Chanel often wore this flower on her lapel because it didn’t interfere with her perfume, the famous Chanel No. 5.
There will be multiple varieties of this lovely flowering evergreen available from The Mercer Society during the March Mart Virtual Plant Sale on Friday, March 19, and Saturday, March 20. Check them out online at themercersociety.square.site/.