Rhododendron varieties & care

A sure-fire way to spruce up your indoor/outdoor living space is to grow Rhododendrons. These plants bloom clusters of bright and spectacular flowers in the late spring. When watered right, their large, leathery leaves stay green all through the winter and keep your space fresh and deciduous. The flowers appear to be funnel-like or bell-shaped. Depending on the variety, the flowers may have a nice fragrance too. 

Rhododendron prefers moderate climate- not too cold or hot. To develop flower buds, they prefer the chill climate. The plant is available in yellow, white, red, pink and purple colors. Although a typical rhododendron might flower in spring, there are some varieties that can bloom in summer as well. 

Varieties 

There are a couple of popular varieties of rhododendrons. 

  1. Windsong

It is an evergreen shrub that flowers lush yellow blooms that look quite elegant with glossy green leaves in the background.

2.  Blue Peter

It blooms lavender colored flowers in the mid-spring and can grow up to 4 feet.

3.  Boule de Neige

This variety bears clusters of white flowers in spring. It prefers deep shade and is sensitive to overwatering.

4.  Elvira

It is a short shade loving plant that blooms bright red flowers. A great choice for indoor planting. 

   5.  Bow Bells

This is a hybrid variety that blooms bell-shaped pink flowers.  It requires good fertile soil. So, you should plant it in compost to get full blossoms.

6. White Angel

This is a long growing rhododendron that could grow up to six feet. It is semi-evergreen and blooms in the month of April. Pruning of this plant is necessary to keep it vibrant throughout the year.

Growing Rhododendrons

You can grow Rhododendrons from seeds, cuttings or saplings brought from the nursery store. If you are not sure about the type of flower ‘a seed growing into a plant’ would bear, getting a cutting of a Rhododendron of your liking helps.

The best time to plant is during spring or early fall. 

Once planted, give your rhododendrons dappled shade as they struggle in full sun and deep shade. A spot that is sunny during the early hours of the morning and receives shade at noon and evening is a perfect spot for the plant.

The soil you plant it on should be moist, humus-rich, well drained and mildly acidic at pH level 5 to 6. If the garden soil is poor, use peat moss and compost. As rhododendrons have shallow root systems, they need mulch and moist soil to stay hydrated, especially during summer months.

To plant a rhododendron, dig a hole that is twice the width of its root ball and deep enough to hold it. When planting multiple plants, place them 2 to 5 feet apart. Do not plant too deep to avoid rotting of roots. After digging the hole, water it and let it settle. Partially add the loose soil, place the plant and fill the remainder with compost and soil mix.

To grow a healthy rhododendron, buy suitable varieties of plants from the nursery. Pay attention to the time they blossom- fall, July, March or some other timing of the year. Buy plants that are healthy with deep green leaves, well watered and not wilted. With your finger, check the condition of the soil. If the soil is bone dry, avoid buying them. 

Rhododendrons Care

Indoor rhododendrons should be watered relatively less and the soil needs to be well drained and rightly acidic. Use a peat-based potting mix without lime. During the growing season, feed the plant with high potassium fertilizer every two weeks. To give a sufficient amount of light, place the pot in a well-lit room and avoid direct sunlight. To keep the plant healthy, the room temperature should be between 16-21°C or 60-70°F.

Watering

Rhododendrons need to be watered thoroughly until they are established. As these plants can absorb water from their leaves, its necessary to water their foliage and also around the roots. The best time to water these plants is during the morning. This allows them to absorb water and dry off until day’s end. Try to avoid watering in the evening as you can put them in the risk of mold growth. 

Fertilizing

It’s important to fertilize rhododendrons once the blooming season is over. As the flowers start to fade, add a good fertilizer to give it a nutrition boost. Also, apply mulch to the area to help the soil retain moisture. Use a slow-release acid forming fertilizer to give the plant a continuous source of nutrition through the rest of the seasons. Cottonseed meal or rhododendron food may be a good choice in this case. 

Pruning

Pruning a rhododendron is necessary to stimulate new growth. The right time to prune the plant is when its leaves are dormant and a few have turned yellowish. Pruning gives rhododendrons symmetry as they tend to grow haphazardly. While pruning a rhododendron, remove dead flowers, yellow and dry leaves. 

Final Note

When you pot a rhododendron and grow it indoors, pay attention to the soil, temperature and amount of sunlight it receives. They are one of the classic flowers with cluster beauty that have been featured in many literary works such as Emerson’s well-known poem, “Rhodora”. So, brighten your space with these large, beautiful flower clusters.

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