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.
The Glenfalloch Blue is a real stunner with it's luminous blue flowers. Hardy to full sun. Always creates a great interest when flowering as it is truly different to other blue rhododendrons. The vibrance is spectacular. Prefers acid soil. Evergreen.
Colour: Blue / Purple Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 60cm x 60cm
Named for the American Nurseryman who bred this lovely Rhododendron in 1906. The purple buds open to off white blooms flushed with pink and speckled attractively at the throat. A slow compact grower that is very tolerant, even of some sun. Prefers an acid soil and some nice mulch around the roots. Evergreen.
Colour: White / Pink Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 2m
What a superb Rhododendron this is. A sturdy compact habit with large, deep green, handsome foliage. The wow happens in early spring when large rounded trusses of vivid red blooms will light up the garden. Plant in semi-shade with acid soil and mulch annually for best results. Evergreen.
Colour: Red Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.5m
A vigorous hybrid which flowers mid to late spring. The blooms are a deep purple-pink tone, the colour is more intense in the centre of the bloom. Puts on a lovely display in a semi-shaded spot. Prefers acid soil and a nice layer of mulch to keep the roots cool. Evergreen.
Colour: Purple / Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5 x 1.5m
This dwarf Rhododendron has deep green foliage and a very compact habit. The pale yellow flowers which are tinged with pink don't look at all 'grumpy' and in fact are quite cheerful when they emerge in spring. Plant in semi-shade in the garden or a container, prefers acid soil. Evergreen.
The ideal gift when the words are hard to find?
Colour: Yellow / Pink Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 75cm x 50cm
A stunning Rhododendron with huge bright red flowers that are spotted with darker tones of red. The flowers look their best in semi-shade where they will not fade. Handsome thick dark green leaves complete the picture. Happiest in well drained acid soil. Evergreen.
Colour: Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
An evergreen shrub with a compact but spreading habit. Stunningly fragrant white flowers tinged with pink and yellow staining at the throat. Protect from frosts to protect the flower buds. Plant in semi shade, avoid Lime and mulch annually for best results. Evergreen.
Colour: White / Pink Yellow Habit: Compact spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.2m x 0m
Striking salmon pink trumpet blooms with a deeper salmon-orange blotch in the throat of the flower. Very showy. Happiest in semi-shade with acid soil. Mulch the roots regularly to keep cool. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
An award winning Rhododendron the dainty dark green foliage and a nice rounded habit. In spring mauve buds open to pure white flowers with a dusting of green in the throat. Very beautiful. The red stems complete the picture. Plant in semi-shade with acid soil for best results. Evergreen.
Colour: White / Mauve Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m
Honey butter produces a pretty mix of yellow flowers with a pink flare around the edge. A bushy evergreen plant that is ideal for patio planters, borders and woodland glades. Plant in semi shade, avoid Lime and mulch annually for best results. Evergreen.