They have a ubiquity that can make you take these spring flowering shrubs for granted. However, there are at least three reasons why you need to plant (or plant more) rhodies.
- Astonishing spring flowers that come in a range of sumptuous colors. They seem to appear from out of nowhere after a long, cold winter. Quite the pick-me-up in the window after witch hazel shrubs flowers but before the lilacs bloom.
- Speaking of winter, they’re one of the few shrubs that stay reliably evergreen during the worst of the season. And, they’re elegant when paired with that other winter stalwart, conifers.
- They grow best in the light shade including the north side of the house (not the easiest place for plants). They thrive in acid soils, even under high-canopied conifers.
Most are hardy in zones 5 – 8. Though, there are a few that can take more chill and others that can take a bit more heat. Many are compact in habit and fill the voids around foundations and in front of taller shade-lovers. If you need height, some can get large. Choose carefully now to avoid unnecessary pruning for size later. Planted now they’ll bring on a bit of bloom, but next spring, get out of the way. They’ll be cloaked in festive color.
If you need recommendations for a certain spot, use the comments section below.
Roseum Elegans Rhododendron
What: Vigorous-growing with large trusses of rose-lilac flowers. Zone: 4 – 8
When: Late spring
Best Feature: Moderate-size is ideal for narrow side yards or against fences.
Cunningham’s White Rhododendron
What: Perfect middle-of-the-shade-border sparkling-white flowering shrub. Zone: 5 – 8
Best Feature: Very dark, rich-green foliage.
What: Brilliant-red trusses from head-to-toe on even young plants. Zone: 4 – 8
Best Feature: Super-compact habit makes a lovely low hedge or shady border.
What: North American native with bright lavender-pink blooms on a medium-sized shrub. Zone: 4 – 8
When: Early Spring
Best Feature: Very cold hardy.
Yellow Petticoats Rhododendron
What: Profuse, clear, deep-yellow, frilly flowers on a compact shrub. Zone: 6 – 9
Best Feature: Performs well in warmer zones.
What: Abundant blooms in shades from pale pink to deep rose all at the same time. Zone: 4 – 8
Best Feature: Flowers appear on even young plants.
Nova Zembla Rhododendron
What: Taller shrub dazzles with big color. Zone: 4 – 8
Best Feature: Dense foliage is great for foundations or hedges.
September Song Rhododendron
What: Unique, exotic combo of pink, yellow, and orange blooms in an open, loose truss.
Best Feature: Adds depth to evergreen forested settings.
Dwarf Purple Rhododendron
What: Container cutie for the shady patio! Zone: 5 – 8
When: Late Spring
Best Feature: Also a great woody groundcover under taller trees.
Keeping Rhodie Happy
- Provide well-drained, acidic soil, rich in organic matter.
- Avoid harsh sun and wind.
- Mulch to keep roots cool.
- Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system.
- Feed with an acid fertilizer after bloom.
- Pruning time: spring after flowering.