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 vigorous and reliable Rhododendron with large trusses of snowy white flowers with a hint of brown speckling in the throat. Flowers in spring. Plant in a semi-shaded spot with acid soil and mulch annually to keep the roots cool. Evergreen.
Colour: White Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2.5m x 2m
The blush pink, edged with lavender and heavily spotted chestnut-brown, funnel-shaped flowers are borne in huge, pyramidal trusses of up to 12 during mid to late spring. Plant in semi shade, avoid Lime and mulch annually for best results. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Rounded Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.8m x 0m
Wide funnel shaped flowers in light rose pink with a deeper pink towards the throat. Flowers appear in mid spring. Happiest in semi-shade with acid soil. Mulch the roots annually to keep cool. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 2m
A tall upright Rhododendron with handsome foliage and large trusses of rich rose pink that appear in spring. Happiest in a semi-shaded position with acid soil. Mulch the roots annually to keep cool. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m
An outstanding Rhododendron with attractive bark, big handsome foliage and large bright red blooms that appear in spring. Plant in dappled light with acid soil for best results. Often described as a "proven performer" for all the right reasons. Evergreen.
Nova Zembla is Dutch for New Land, there is also an Island of this name.
Colour: Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m
Beautiful blooms of deep, rich, blackberry purple with a hint of coffee coloured spotting towards the throat of the flower will be much admired in spring. This Rhododendron is happiest in a semi-shaded cool spot in the garden with acid soil. Mulch the roots annually. Evergreen.
Colour: Purple / Red Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.2m x 1m
A very pretty Rhododendron with apricot buds that open to reveal cream and pale yellow blooms with an apricot centre. Generous with bloom in spring. Forms a nice compact bush with dark green foliage. Happiest in semi-shade in acid soil. Mulch regularly to keep the roots cool. Evergreen.
Colour: Cream / Apricot Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1m x 1m
Very bright sulphur yellow flowers are held in loose trusses and are lightly fragrant and are set off well with the bronze foliage. This plant will cope with a sunny position. Protect buds from heavy frosts. Plant in semi shade, avoid Lime and mulch annually for best results. Evergreen.
Colour: yellow Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 0m
This truly is a Party Package with it's pretty crimson buds that open a deep mid pink and mature to washed pale pink and finally white, with star shaped red base in each throat. Each flower has wavy frilled petals that give a beautiful effect. Prefers acid soil and a nice layer of mulch applied annually. Avoid Lime. A must have for anyone who likes Rhododendrons. Evergreen.