It is Rhododendron season! As I walk around town I enjoy seeing all of the varieties in bloom. I even gave a short video tour of the types blooming in my yard. I often see Rhododendrons used in the wrong application, specifically the very large varieties placed so close to a house they are overwhelming and out of scale.
I think Rhododendron are great in three specific applications, and it is extremely important to pick the right variety for your specific purpose.
Rhododendron are evergreen, which means they provide great screening year round. They do extremely well on a property line to provide privacy.
- ‘English Roseum’ grows to be 10-15′ tall! With huge pink flowers this is a fantastic privacy/screening plant where you have space
- ‘Purpureum Elegans’ is a purple blooming species that gets to be 8-10′ tall, great for a hedge or property line
Our native Rhododendron maximum is a great species for woodland areas, under mature trees or as a border between a yard and woodland perimeter
- Rhododendron maximum (the straight species) can get to be 10-15′ tall. This has huge leafs and white blooms
- Rhododendron maximum ‘Roseum’ is a pink blooming, smaller variety, getting to about 6′ tall
Around your house you need to pick a smaller shrub, and too often homeowners (or builders) pick a variety that simply gets too big! Toward the back of a foundation bed you can go for something a bit taller (4-5′ at most), but try to keep any plant under window sills. In the front of the border, a plant that grows wider than tall is a great choice to create a lower layer of evergreen foliage. Most rhododendron like some shade, so use these if the front of your house faces north or east.
- ‘Cunningham White’ is one of my favorites for the back of your foundation border. It gets to be 4-5′ tall and has pink buds that open to pure white (with a little yellow patch on the blossom).
- ‘PJM Elite’ is a smaller version of PJM, one of the first blooming (little leaf) rhododendrons. This gets 4-5′ tall and is great for the back of your foundation border. (This one can actually take a bit more sun and can work on a south facing side)
- ‘Yaku Prince’ or ‘Yaku Princess’ get to be about 3′ tall and 4′ wide. This has a large leaf and light pink bloom. Great for the front of your foundation border.
- ‘Purple Gem’ gets to about 3′ tall and 4′ wide. This has a smaller leaf and bright purple bloom and planted as a border will give you a big punch of color in the spring.
When you head to the plant nursery or garden center always look at the plant tag to see the mature height and width of a plant (especially Rhododendron since the range is so huge). Rhododendron transplant quite easily (and can be pruned heavily) so once they are done blooming consider moving or pruning your plants to better fit your needs.
Thank you and be well!