I have a very special rhododendron in my shade garden. I received it from a friend who has a particularly green thumb when it comes to rhodies. It's a hybrid that he developed and its hardy nature is one of the characteristics that makes it so exceptional.
Rhododendrons are quite temperamental. They like climates that have moist air and mild temperatures in both summer and winter. My garden is extremely hot in summer and can get quite cold in winter, but this rhododendron has thrived. Over the past 15 years it has grown into a stunning 5 foot tall shrub and this spring it is covered with pale pink blooms.
If you are lucky enough to live in a climate that is suitable for growing rhododendrons here are a few tips to help keep them happy and loaded with blooms.
Most rhododendrons prefer light shade or full morning exposure with protection from intense afternoon sun. Dense shade will cause the flowers to be sparse.
Rhododendrons need acidic, but well-drained soils. They also like for their soils to be consistently moist. But, be careful, too much moisture around their feet can cause the roots to rot. Also, make sure the soil is loose and full of rich organic matter, like compost or peat moss for all those tiny, fibrous roots.
Feed rhododendrons soon after they finish flowering using a blend designed for azaleas and rhododendrons. This will help the plants set plenty of buds for next year.
To further promote heavy bloom next year, remove the spent flowers. To do this, just break off the faded flower at the base just above the buds. Depending on the size plant you're working with, this job can take a little time, but it will be worth it.
If you are considering adding a rhododendron to your garden check out the mature height of the variety you choose before you plant it. Some varieties are monsters growing to eight feet or taller. So think about that before you plant them because this is a shrub that looks best when allowed to grow unchecked.
Good to Know: Cold Tolerant Rhodies
- 'Mrs. Chas. S. Sargent' - Deep Rose
- Everestianum - Magenta with Green Spots
- Atrosanguineum - Red with Purple Spots
- 'Purple Splendor' - Violet with Purple
- 'Nova Zembla' - Red, both cold and heat tolerant