Everything about Rhododendrons: How to Plant, Grow and Care for Rhododendrons

The large and showy blooms of rhododendrons will make them a great addition to your garden. They are available in a wide array of colors, depending on the variety that you will choose to grow.  Even if you have no prior experience in gardening, there is no need to worry when growing rhododendron. The entire process is quite easy and there is a high success rate.

If you want to learn how to plant rhododendrons, keep on reading the rest of this post. We’ll let you know how to plant and care for it. We’ll also discuss some of its varieties and uses.

What is Rhododendron?

Rhododendron is often confused with azalea since they both belong to the Rhododendron genus. The two may share similar characteristics, but they are two plants that are different from each other. Among others, the biggest difference between the two is the number of the stamens that you can see when the flowers are in their full bloom. Rhododendrons have ten stamens while azaleas have only five. The flowers of azaleas are also smaller and they bloom earlier as against that of rhododendron. To add, while azaleas can be evergreen or deciduous, in the case of rhododendrons, they are all evergreen.

Rhododendron Flower

Rhododendron is the National Flower of Nepal

The rhododendron is a flower that is native to the countries in the Northern Hemisphere. There is a high concentration in South Asia, specifically the Himalayas. It is the national flower of Nepal. In India, on the other hand, it is the state flower of Sakkim. It is also the emblem of the states of Washington and West Virginia in the United States. While there are many flowers that are a symbol of love, hope, appreciation, and other positive attributes, it is quite different in the case of rhododendron. While they are beautiful, they symbolize caution and danger, which is perhaps because of the fact that the blooms are toxic.

Physical Characteristics of Rhododendron

This plant grows as a shrub or a small tree, with a height that ranges from three to 20 feet. The spread, on the other hand, can be as much as 25 feet. Given the size of the plant, it is important to satisfy its space requirements. It is also evergreen, which means that its leaves will remain on the tree throughout the year, unlike in the case of deciduous trees that will experience defoliation.

Rhododendrons grow attractive and colorful flowers. In most cases, the colors will be white, blue, orange, green, red, and pink. They are bell, funnel, tube, or trumpet-shaped, but this will highly depend on the variety of the rhododendron that you have. Some people also call it a rose tree, which is in reference to the trusses that the flowers form. With the physical appearance of the blooms, it is no longer surprising that it is popular for its ornamental value. More than just being beautiful, the flowers also exhibit a unique fragrance.

Varieties of Rhododendron

With the abundance of the varieties that are available, which one should you choose? Below are some of the options that are worth a look:

This is one of the best choices if you are on the lookout for a dwarf variety of rhododendron to plant, especially if you have a small garden. On average, the height is only 12 inches while the spread is 18 inches. The color of the flower, on the other hand, is yellow.

Chikor Rhododendron

This hybrid rhododendron produces yellow flowers that are approximately two inches in diameter and they have frilly edges. The elliptical and acute leaves, meanwhile, are deep green and about 4.5 inches in length.

Rhododendron Capistrano

While most of the rhododendrons thrive well in areas with shade, this is one of the few varieties that can thrive even with full sun exposure. It produces green foliage and pink flowers. With an average height of five feet, this is another good choice if you want a compact shrub in the garden.

Rhododendron Hydon Dawn

With a slight fragrance, this variety bears beautiful white flowers. The height of the plant will be one to three feet on average, making it an excellent choice as well if you want a small shrub in your garden.

Rhododendron September Snow

The color of the flowers is commonly yellow, orange, and pink. It is pale on the inside and the color gets darker on the edges. The foliage, on the other hand, is green or burgundy. The height and width can be anywhere from three to four feet.

Rhododendron Honey Butter

The pure white flower of this variety makes it one of the most beautiful rhododendrons to grow. Its blooms are sure to attract attention as they stand tall and proud amidst the dark green leaves.

Rhododendron Mount Everest

For a bolder color, this variety produces red or black blooms and has a green foliage. The average height is 24 to 36 inches while the approximate width is 36 inches. Being a dwarf variety, this is another good option for a small garden.

Rhododendron Ruby Hart

With the deep purple and large blooms of this rhododendron variety, it is one plant that will be hard to not notice in the garden. It grows best in a place with full to partial sun and soil that is not alkaline or dry.

Rhododendron Bumble Bee

This is an early flowering variety of rhododendron, which makes it a common choice for gardeners who are impatient. It produces pink flowers that measure two inches across. The height can reach up to three feet.

With an average size of one foot, this is another good choice if you are looking for a miniature variety. It has light pink and delicate flowers, which will stand out from its green foliage.

This variety produces a large apricot flower that is creamy on the inside. After ten years of growing the plant, the minimum height is 1.5 meters. It has flowers that last long, making them great for floral arrangements.

Health Benefits

A lot of people are aware that rhododendrons have showy and attractive blooms, which are available in a wide array of colors. What most of you do not know, however, is the fact that they also have medicinal value, including those that we will quickly tackle below:

  • Prevention of Cancer: In one previous study in Italy, researchers found out that the essential oils from rhododendrons can be highly-effective in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.
  • Treats Dermatitis: For people who are suffering from atopic dermatitis, rhododendrons can also offer a promising solution. Topical application of the extracts of the roots will help to ease the inflammation and infection.
  • Treats Inflammatory Pain: In 2010, in one study from a journal called Molecular Pain, the ability of rhododendrons to treat persistent inflammatory pain has been uncovered. The conclusion was that the plant can function as an analgesic to treat inflammation.
  • Regulates Kidney Function: The root extracts of rhododendrons are the ones that deliver this benefit. They contain a powerful extract that will be instrumental in strengthening the kidney, which will lessen the possibility of having problems.

These health benefits, however, are not absolute. There are some varieties that can be toxic upon ingestion, which makes it important to be cautious in using rhododendrons in the field of alternative medicine. To be sure, it will not hurt if you will consult with a medical professional first.

Uses and Applications

The following are some of the most common ways to use rhododendrons:

  • Garden Plant: For many people, this is the only reason why they plant rhododendrons at home. They may be tall and wide, but they can be a great addition to the garden because of their attractive and colorful flowers. You can harvest the flowers when they reach full maturity and use them for ornamental purposes.
  • Alternative Medicine: Rhododendrons are not as popular as other plants when it comes to their medicinal value. There are also limited studies that can prove their effectiveness. Nonetheless, for a long time now, especially in Nepal and India, they are popular for their health benefits.
  • Incense: This is especially true in the case of India and in Buddhist monasteries. Rhododendrons are often used as an incense because they burn for a long time, especially when they are combined with sandalwood and aromatic roots.
  • Perfume: Especially in commercial applications, rhododendrons are also a popular component in perfume products. Depending on the variety, they have a soft smell that will be reminiscent of pollen and honey.

How to Plant Rhododendrons

While it is possible to grow rhododendron from seeds, this is one thing that you might not want to do. On average, it will take up to ten years for the plant to bloom if you start from seeds. With this, a better thing to do is to buy a young plant with an already established growth. Purchase only from a reputable nursery and perform a quick inspection of the seedling, making sure that it is in its perfect health.

One of the first things that you have to do is site selection. Plant them outdoors since most of them will grow large. While they love the sun, keep them away from full sun. Exposure to too much heat can dry and burn the plant, and hence, will inhibit its growth. Look for a place that has a shade. It should also have protection from strong winds.

After the site selection, soil preparation comes next. Perform a quick inspection to be sure that it has the conditions that will be favorable for the rhododendrons. They love well-draining, acidic, and humus-rich soil. The average pH level must be 4.5 to 6. The soil should also be abundant with organic matter, which will provide the nutrients that are essential for the growth of the plant. You can add compost to improve the condition of the soil.

Planting Rhododendron

Plant Them Outdoors Since Most of Them Will Grow Large

Now that everything is ready, dig a hole on the site where you intend to grow the plant. The hole should be two to three times bigger than the size of the root ball. It should be deep enough to cover the roots while leaving at least one to two inches of space from the top of the ground. Place the plant in the hole, lightly water the roots, cover with light soil, and press firmly. You can also apply light mulch on the top, which will be essential for moisture retention.

Common Pests and Diseases

If your rhododendron is not producing flowers as you expect or if it looks weak, chances are, there are diseases and pests that are causing the problem. It is important to pay attention to these problems as soon as possible before they escalate. For the diseases, rhododendrons can suffer from chlorosis, winter burn, powdery mildew, leaf gall, rust, Meanwhile, for pests, the causes of infestation include aphids, lace bugs, spider mites, and weevils, among others. To address these problems, be sure to resort to the use of natural methods as against chemical solutions, making it possible to get rid of the root cause without adverse effects.

How to Take Care of Rhododendrons

Clueless about how to take care of rhododendrons? Below are some tips that you might find helpful:

  • Watering is important, especially during the first year of the plant. You also need to pay more attention to watering during the summer months as the soil can easily dry. Once the plant matures, you can reduce the frequency of watering.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist, but it should not be soggy. Lengthy exposure to water can make the root rot and can encourage a number of problems. Pine needles will be a good choice for mulching, which can help keep the soil moist. This will also control the growth of the weeds and enhance the health of the roots.
  • Pinching and pruning will also be necessary, which will help to manage the growth of the shrub. It will make it more compact. When pruning use only clean scissors so that infection will not spread. Also, avoid pruning on a hot day. Ideally, you have to do it early in the morning or at night.
  • Regular feeding is critical in maintaining the best condition of the plant. Nonetheless, avoid providing too much fertilizer. The latter will encourage too much growth of foliage while delaying the blooming of the flowers. Look for a fertilizer that will work best for plants that love acid. Cottonseed meal can be a good choice as it is organic

Harvesting Rhododendrons

When flowers are in their full bloom, you can harvest or cut them from the shrub and use them as desired, such as for an ornament. The same thing is true if they are looking weak or spent. Remove them as soon as possible before the infection spreads to the healthy parts of the plant. Hold the flower with one hand and snip the stem using clean scissors. Make sure to cut at such a height that the stem will be tall enough. Immediately place the stem in water so that the flowers will remain fresh.


An attractive bush with colorful blooms, rhododendrons will make a great addition to your landscape. It might be quite an intimidating task at first, but if you know exactly the ideal growing conditions, everything else will be easy. It does not like full sun, so choose a place with shade but still, there must be indirect sunlight. The soil should be fertile, loamy, and well-draining. Pay attention as well to regular pruning, which will help to keep the plant compact.

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