Rhododendrons are plants whose flowers bloom in spring. They tend to be found primarily in colder climates. Properly taken care of, they can also grow quite well in mild to moderate temperature zones. They thrive best in cold, rainforest conditions and require good drainage and steady watering.
Why is it called Rhododendron?
Rhododendron might seem like a very unusual name but it actually comes from two Greek words “rodon” means rose “dendron” means tree. Technically speaking, the Rhododendron is the rose tree plant. Its flowers are generally produced in trusses.
There are over a 1000 varieties of Rhododendrons spread across North America, Europe and Asia.
Originally discovered by Charles L’ecluse, the Rhododendron has established quite a reputation for itself throughout the centuries after its discovery by the Flemish botanist. It was found in the 1500s. Typically, they are found in shrubs and they have leathery, large leaves with flower clusters that range from purple, red, pink, to white. In terms of taxonomy and plant lineage, it is closely related to azaleas.
More interesting facts about the Rhododendron
Some species of rhododendron are poisonous.
While just touching the flowers or mild consumption is not going to have any serious health issues, if you were to ingest any part of the plant from the roots, stem, branches, leaves, and definitely the flowers, you’re going to have problems.
It is grayanotoxin, a toxic substance in some species of Rhododendron that can trigger a comatose state. Ingesting it can lead to convulsions, abnormal heart rhythms, and irregular heart rates. Milder symptoms of Rhododendron poisoning can range from stomach irritation all the way to abdominal pain. It can be harmful to your pet animals such as dogs and cats and especially horses.
Even honey that is made from Rhododendron has also been proven to be toxic. The pollen and nectar of its flowers produce toxic honey. This plant can be dangerous. That’s the bottom line.
With that said, the Rhododendron is beautiful and it’s no surprise that it’s the national flower of the nation of Nepal as well as the state flower of the Indian state of Uttharakhand and Sikkim. Washington State in the United States has chosen the Pacific Rhododendron as its official floral emblem.
How do you grow Rhododendrons?
You can grow Rhododendrons in two ways. In planters or pots out in a garden. If you’re lacking space, you can try growing your Rhododendrons in a pot.
The best way to do this is to pick a dwarf variety and prepare a pot with good drainage holes. It should be twice the size of the plant. Put it in a place where it can get sunlight in the morning and shade in the afternoon. You may have to move around the container or choose an area where the sun goes away later in the day.
Place quality potting mix in the pot, get the shrub from the container and tease the roots. Ease it into the hole in the pot and cover the roots with potting mix. Push down firmly and water. Give your Rhododendron flower food every six to eight weeks.
Growing Rhododendrons in a garden
Here is how to grow rhododendron plant in your garden.
- Find the perfect spot in your garden that gets sufficient sun in the morning and a bit of shade in the afternoon.
- Once you’ve found this spot, dig it up, and add compost to the soil before planting.
- Make sure that the hole you have dug is twice as wide and as deep as the root ball of the Rhododendron you are going to plant.
- Take out the shrub from the container and tease the roots. Insert it gently into the ground and cover the roots by pushing firmly.
- Create a donut-shaped raised soil around the plant to keep the water in the roots area.
- Water the plant sufficiently to keep the soil moist for weeks. Use organic mulch like pea straw, sugarcane, or bark chips around the base. Feed your Rhododendron with flower food every six to eight weeks.
Rhododendrons which blooms in springs have been cultivated for many centuries now. It is easy to see why-their amazing colors and overall appearance get a lot of attention. From vast private gardens in massive estates to large public spaces and parks, rhododendron plants seem to be a mainstay. They provide a lot of colors and ‘personality’ and this is why they have continued to be relevant to the present day.
If you are looking for a quick way to add a bit of personality to your garden, try this plant.
However, using ‘strong’ plants like rhododendron without balancing them out can make your garden a bit off. On one side, you get a nice dose of sensory overload while the rest of the garden seems a bit dull. If you think this is a minor issue, think again. People can and do notice ‘imbalances’ in garden design.
So, make sure that you plan out your garden in ‘zones’ that balance the strong presence of rhododendron flowers.