Now we’re in May there is one group of plants that’s certainly springing to life and making a show in most of our gardens with their jaw-dropping displays of colourful blooms ... that’s the Rhododendrons!
If you’re looking for the wow factor out of your flowers, Rhododendrons certainly tick that box, they can be split into a series of groups starting with the Hybrid Rhododendrons, with their long evergreen glossy leaves and mounds of flowers in a range of colours from red to white and orange to pink.
Generally growing from a height of three feet up to 30ft., depending on variety, they are great for providing structure in any garden, but as you sow ericaceous (acid) soil is essential for them to thrive, and they love to grow in a sunny or shady location in a well-drained or dry soil. They are very versatile, the only limitation being they won’t grow in an exposed site nor in a wet or boggy location.
Following these are the Dwarf Rhododendrons, which bear just as many flowers but in a smaller scale – great for incorporating into a rockery or growing in a pot. Some bear small flowers and others bear dramatically large flowers for the size of plant; Rhododendron Bow Bells, in particular, with large glossy pink blooms.
All Rhododendrons are evergreen, however there is a group of plants which fall within the Rhododendron family and that is the Azaleas. Deciduous Azaleas bear a very similar flower to a Rhododendron, but it has less stamens as a technicality, the main difference being they bear a beautiful scent. Growing from four feet up to 20ft, depending on variety, they are a must have for the garden.
Also they can be pruned and re-shoot from old wood, unlike their relatives. All Evergreen Rhododendrons must be left to grow to the size they want to, so the key is to pick the right size for your garden, but with the deciduous Azaleas they can be pruned into old wood straight after flowering and will shoot out and bloom the following year.
The final group is the Japanese Evergreen Azaleas. With a dwarf growing between one foot to four feet, they are one of the most prolific groups for flower, again from white to pink and red to orange they pack the wow factor.
With all Rhododendrons the key is to feed with a specialist feed (Vitax Q4) as I always recommend straight after flowering, and with them only being shallow rooted you should mix the pellet feed with some bark or compost to prevent scorch of the surface roots. Follow this tip and grow them in the right place and you will not fail to be amazed by Rhododendrons!