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 really lovely award winning Rhododendron that has a rounded compact habit. Dark green, glossy foliage and breath taking blooms. Rounded trusses of cream flushed with pink and soft apricot appear mid spring and gradually fade to creamy-white as they age. Perfect for a semi-shaded spot. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink / Cream Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1m x 1m
This evergreen Rhododendron flowers in spring with white, flushed light fuchsia purple blooms. Rose-bengal on reverse, in a rounded truss of 15-20 florets. Dark dull green leaves. Vigorous but compact plant. H1m.
Colour: White / Purple Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1m x 1m
Delicious deep pink buds open to soft pink blooms with attractive spotting on the throat. A large upright Rhododendron that will put on a lovely display in spring. Happiest in semi-shade and acid soil. Mulch the roots to keep cool. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 2m
An upright Rhododendron with handsome dark green foliage offset by glowing rose pink blooms that appear in large trusses in spring. The interior of the blooms is highlighted with soft salmon and yellow tones. Plant in a semi-shaded spot with acid soil. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink / Yellow Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.5m
A deliciously fragrant Rhododendron with elegant white blooms that open from pale pink buds. A real delight for a semi-shaded, sheltered spot in the garden or equally lovely in a container. Needs protection from harsh frost and acid soil to do really well. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink / White Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
Compact and sturdy with glowing violet purple blooms that have a hint of bronze-green in the throat. Flowers in spring and is much admired. Plant in semi-shade with acid soil for best results. Mulch annually to keep the roots cool Evergreen.
Colour: Purple / Red Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
Splendid indeed with royal purple frilled florets that form large decorative trusses towards late spring. The blooms are highlighted with almost black markings in the throat. A strong erect grower that will perform best in a semi-shaded spot. Prefers acid soil. Evergreen.
Colour: Purple / Black Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m
Glowing red flowers in lovely shaped trusses. With it's tidy habit and excellent deep green leathery foliage this rhodo is a show stopper. Plant in semi shade, avoid Lime and mulch annually for best results. Evergreen.
Colour: Red Habit: Compact rounded Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
Well the name of this Rhododendron is a bit off putting but what it means is that the beautiful large blooms of reddish purple have an attractive central red zone. Nice compact grower and of course handsome green foliage. Plant in semi-shade in acid soil for best results. Evergreen.
Your Rhododendron will appreciate a nice layer of mulch around the surface roots in summer to keep them cool.
Colour: Red / Purple Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m