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.
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
With an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society you know that 'Dora' is going to perform well in the garden. The white blooms are speckled green and open from pink buds. The blooms appear in spring and have a spicy fragrance. Likes dappled light but is tolerant of sun. Evergreen.
Colour: White / Green Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 100cm x 100cm
A beautiful Rhododendron with fat pink buds that open to large trusses of soft yellow flowers with a pink blotch in the centre. Flowers appear in early spring. Dark green foliage and a compact habit. Plant in dappled light with acid soil and mulch annually to keep the roots cool. Evergreen.
Colour: Yellow / Red Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.5m
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
A vigorous, hardy and tolerant Rhododendron that has deep rose pink, trumpet blooms that form dense large trusses. Very free flowering, puts on a spectacular display mid spring. Plant in dappled light with acid soil and mulch annually to keep the roots cool. Est 10 yr. growth. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 4m x 2.5m
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
Bred in NZ by Felix Jury this handsome shrub has dark green leathery foliage. In spring fragrant trumpets of bloom in tones of pastel apricot with a pink flush and just a hint of orange in the throat will make you realize it is an excellent choice for a semi-shaded part of the garden. Evergreen.
Colour: Apricot Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2.5m x 2m
A stunning variety with amazing white blooms that are flushed and streaked with carmine; an unusual showy accent plant; needs well-drained, acidic soil. Plant in semi shade, avoid Lime and mulch annually for best results. Evergreen.
Habit: Open, upright spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2.5m x 0m
Show bright pink blooms with a bright cherry pink flare appear in large trusses in mid spring. A vigorous upright grower with large green leaves. Happiest in semi-shade and acid soil. Mulch regularly to keep the roots cool. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink / Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.8m x 1.5m