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 stunning red Rhododendron with large trusses of up to 18 flowers in cardinal red and a spotted black throat. An excellent shrub for semi shade and prefers moist peat soils. Enjoys a top dressing of peat. Evergreen
Colour: Red / Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.5m
Small trumpet shaped flowers of soft saffron yellow are ideal to bring light into a shady corner. The leaves are long, narrow and quite glossy. Generous with bloom in mid spring. Happiest in semi-shade with acid soil. Mulch annually to keep the roots cool. Evergreen.
Colour: Yellow Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5 x 1.5m
Narrow foliage in tones of olive green and an open habit. In spring striking blooms of white, blotched with purple-black appear in nice round trusses. Plant in semi-shade with acid soil for best results. Mulch annually to keep the roots cool. Evergreen.
Colour: White / Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.8m
Well I haven't ever seen a Sierra Sunset but if it looks like this Rhododendron in flower then I know it is truly beautiful. Handsome foliage and gorgeous luminous blooms in tones of red, yellow, orange and cream. Plant in a semi-shaded spot with acid soil. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.2m x 1m
Yes a Rhododendron with variegated foliage in tones of silver and green - very striking and eye-catching. A strong upright grower that blooms mid spring with pretty light mauve-purple flowers. Plant in semi-shade with acid soil. Evergreen.
Colour: Mauve Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m
If you like Rhododendrons then it would be criminal not to include this hardy and vigorous cultivar in your collection. Tight trusses of bright carmine pink will put on a wonderful display in early spring. Plant in semi-shade with acid soil for best results. Evergreen.
Sir Robert Peel was the founder of the modern day Police Force hence the common names used in the UK for the police:- "Bobbies" and/or "Peelers".
Colour: Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 4.5m x 2m
With a name like 'Sneezy' you will not be surprised to learn that this is a dwarf Rhododendron with a low compact habit. The mid spring blooms are soft pink edged with deep pink. Ideal for a semi-shaded spot in the garden or perhaps a container. Prefers acid soil. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink / Red Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 100cm x 100cm
A compact Rhododendron with interesting green foliage that is slightly "furry". In spring large, waxy, white trumpets of bloom put on a real show. Lovely for a semi-shaded spot in the garden or can be container grown. Prefers acid soil. Evergreen.
Colour: White Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1m x 1m
Yakushimanum hybrid with flamboyant pink flower colour. The flower colour is red from bud, later bright pink. This plant is hardy. Lovely long eliptical leaves. Plant in semi shade, avoid Lime and mulch annually for best results. Evergreen.
Colour: Dark rose / Pink Habit: Rounded Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 2m
A very fragrant Rhododendron with white, blushed pink blooms that appear in spring. Tends to have a slightly open habit. Prefers a sheltered position in the semi-shade away from frost. Avoid lime, acid lover. Evergreen.
Colour: White / Pink Habit: Open Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 100cm x 80cm