Rhododendrons (often called “rhodies”) are a classic Pacific northwest shrub, well known for their exuberant blooms and for being the floral emblem of Washington state. But what exactly are they and how can you make the most of them in your garden?
The genus Rhododendron is part of the Ericaceae family (which also includes azaleas, blueberries, cranberries, heaths and heathers, and other ornamental plants), and there are about 1,000 species in the genus. Interestingly, all azaleas are rhododendrons but not all rhododendrons are azaleas. Although the genetic differentiation may sound confusing, gardeners usually distinguish the two by the fact that rhodies tend to be evergreen and azaleas are mostly deciduous (with a few exceptions), as well as by various physical differences between the two types of plant (e.g. rhododendrons are taller and more erect than azaleas, which are generally twiggy and more spreading; rhodies have 10+ stamen, azaleas have 5, etc.).
Rhododendrons were first discovered by a Flemish botanist named Charles l’Ecluse in Belgium, but can now be found growing wild in many different parts of the world. They prefer acidic soils with readily available moisture, minimal temperature variability, and moderate wind and humidity. In the garden, this means planting in sheltered locations that get morning and/or late afternoon sun (they need some direct sun to encourage flowering), and making sure the soil where you plant then is acidic. The hardiness of rhododendrons can vary by species, so make sure to check out the recommendations for the one you have in mind.
Early spring is an ideal planting time for rhododendrons and we have a great selection of in stock that are budded out and ready to start blooming, so make sure you get down to D Avenue Nursery and grab yours today! For more detailed information on all things rhododendron, check out The American Rhododendron Society’s website for more information.