Rhododendron - plants, care and species

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It is one of the most popular plants and can be found in almost every garden. No wonder, the rhododendrons are beautiful and easy to clean.


The rhododendrons form a genus in the heather family (Ericaceae) and are predominantly native to Asia and partly native to North America. They are among the most popular ornamental and garden plants in Europe and grow mostly as bushes, rarely as small trees and in exceptional cases as large trees. The genus includes more than 1000 species, which include countless natural and cultivated varieties. Many of these varieties are hybrids.

Flowers, leaves and growth

Rhododendrons form trumpet, bell or cup-shaped flowers that open in spring to summer in spreading flower clusters. Depending on the species and variety, the flowers may be white, pink, purple or even yellow. The leaves, however, are elliptical to oblong and grow radially around the branches of the rhododendron. They are strong and dark green in color. The foliage of most rhododendrons is also evergreen, but a few species discard the leaves in the fall.

The smallest rhododendrons are only about ten inches high. The largest species, however, can reach a height of more than 20 meters! Typical of gardens and parks in Germany, however, are not these extremes, but the medium-sized, compact and often spherical rhododendrons.

❒ Large-flowered hybrids:

The large-flowered hybrids make up the most numerous group within the rhododendrons. They grow as compact shrubs, grow between two and five meters high and have leaves up to 20 centimeters long. The impressive flower clusters consist of up to 20 individual flowers, which unfold their full splendor depending on the species between March and July.

Large-flowered hybrids can be used as solitary or group shrubs and sometimes as hedges. Well-known examples are 'Cunningham's White', 'Catawbiense Grandiflorum' and 'Furnivall's Daughter'.

❒ Small-flowered hybrids:

These hybrids have (often but not always) smaller flowers than the large-flowered hybrids. Very popular are the dwarf forms with a maximum height of one meter, which are also very suitable for the container planting. These dwarf varieties include the small-flowered hybrids 'Curlew', 'Moerheimii' and 'Gristede'.

❒ Summer green azaleas:

The summer green azaleas form a small group within the mostly evergreen rhododendrons. The varieties were mostly bred from British species. Well-known examples are 'Berryrose', 'Gibraltar', 'Lady Rosenberg' and 'Royal Command'.

Location and ground

Rhododendron species

Rhododendrons love semi or alternate shade locations. Both visually and ecologically, the shallow-rooting plants blend in well with deep-rooted trees such as mountain ash or oak, providing the necessary shade at the same time. However, the foliage must not deprive the rhododendron of all light in summer.

The soil should be permeable to water and air, loose and quite acidic at the site. A pH between 4 and 5 is ideal. In addition, a high humus content is beneficial for healthy growth. Find out how to plant a rhododendron properly here.

In case of prolonged drought, you must make sure that you keep the soil evenly moist. Through frequent and slow casting, this goal can be achieved far better than by the rare and hasty supply of large amounts of water. Further care tips for rhododendrons can be found here.

Video Board: Rhododendron Facts and Flowers.

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