The history of the introduction of the Rhododendron family to the western world reads somewhat like the script of an Indiana Jones movie. Devoted horticultural pioneers of the 19th century risked life and limb in the remote mountainous regions of China to seek out desirable species. The British Empire had an endless apetite for Rhododendrons which had to be satisfied! This was no simple Chinese Takeaway. Marauding tribesmen and man-hunting dogs along with pests and diseases were a very real and dangerous threat. We can be grateful that through them we now know of aproximately 900 species of Rhododendron which have been inter-bred to create more than 10,000 hybrids. There is really no excuse for not finding a Rhododendron that apeals.
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Rhododendrons do need consideration as to planting position. They prefer rich deep soil that has an acid ph. Basically this excludes heavy clay or chalky soils. Soil condition can be improved with the addition of peat or bark mulch. Avoid lime. Rhododendrons prefer a little dapled light in the afternoon but can be surprisingly tolerant of sun as long as their roots are kept cool with a nice layer of mulch or compost. The root system is fibrous which means lots of little roots all massed together and near the surface. The good thing about fibrous root systems is it means the plants are easy to move should you wish to give them a ride in your wheelbarrow - something I do far too much of! What else do you need to know? Unfortunately here in New Zealand Rhododendrons are susceptible to damage from a nasty little insect called Thrip. This eats through the top green layer of the leaf leaving it with a silver apearance, when it's done it then goes and hides beneath the leaf. Thrips can easily be controlled by spraying regularly with a systemic chemical insecticide which penetrates through the plant, poisoning the insect when it attacks the foliage. If you prefer a more gentle method of destruction then use an organic surfactant spray i.e. it doesn't penetrate the plant tissue, but you will have to make sure that you spray underneath the leaf as well as on the top. Some Rhododendrons can start flowering from winter onwards in warmer areas of N.Z. but the main flowering period is considered to be spring. In full flower they add a dramatic beauty to the garden and are particularly superb under tall deciduous trees. If you really want to see Rhododendrons at their best I highly recommend a trip to the New Plymouth Rhododendron festival in October/November of each year. You can then get an idea of the type of Rhododendron that suits you and your garden and here at Wairere we'll do our best to match your desires. All plants called Rhododendrons in New Zealand are evergreen and fully hardy to cold. Azaleas are also classified as Rhododendrons and some of these are deciduous - for further information see our separate category.
A lovely Rhododendron with deep green foliage and a neat and tidy habit. The compact trusses of bloom appear in spring and are in tones of pale lavender and purple with a hint of red at the throat. Plant in semi shade, avoid Lime and mulch annually for best results. Evergreen.
Colour: Mauve / Red Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2.5m x 1.5m
Very large, rounded trusses of brilliant bright pink decorate this Rhododendron in spring. Vigorous bushy growth habit with attractive foliage. Happiest with dappled light. Mulch around the roots annually to keep cool. Avoid Lime. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2.5m x 2m
A dwarf Rhododendron with bright green foliage and glowing red blooms that appear in spring. Excellent choice for the front of the border or perhaps a container in a shady corner. Prefers dappled light and acid soil, mulch annually and avoid Lime. Evergreen.
Colour: Red Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 60cm x 60cm
Beautiful rounded trusses of pink with a cream throat appear in early spring. A nice small and compact Rhododendron. Happiest in a semi-shaded position with acid soil. Mulch regularly to keep the surface roots cool. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink / Cream Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m
This compact bush has soft apple-blossom coloured flowers touched with a deeper pink. Leaves are deep forest green. Flowers in September. Plant in dappled light with acid soil and mulch annually to keep the roots cool. Avoid Lime. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1m x 1m
Large trusses of bright red bell shaped blooms appear from late winter. Dark green foliage and an erect open habit. Plant in semi-shade with acid soil for best results however 'Cornubia' is known to cope with more sun that many other cultivars. Evergreen.
Colour: Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 3m x 2m
Large full trusses of striking ruby red flowers appear in spring. Handsome dark foliage and an upright habit make this a Rhododendron to add to your collection. Plant in semi-shade and mulch the roots regularly to keep cool. Avoid Lime. Evergreen.
Colour: Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
A special species Rhododendron from the mountains of Burma. The blooms are beautifully fragrant and toned palest pink to white with a speckled blotch of yellow in the centre. Flowers in spring. Plant in dappled light with acid soil and mulch annually to keep the roots cool. Evergreen.
This Rhododendron also has attractive mahogany coloured peeling bark.
Colour: Pink / White Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 3m x 2m
Big, bold, rounded trusses of frilly cerise pink blooms will delight in spring. Dark green glossy foliage and a vigorous growth habit. Plant in dappled light though this cultivar is tolerant of some sun. Prefers acid soil and a nice layer of mulch to keep the roots cool. Evergreen. RHS AGM.
Colour: Pink / Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.5m
The double flowers of this dome shaped Rhododendron are the prettiest shade of soft mauve highlighted with a blotch of lemon-brown in the centre. The flowers appear in spring in loose trusses. Happiest in semi-shade with acid soil. Avoid Lime. Evergreen.
Colour: Mauve / Yellow Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2.5m x 2m