Interesting Facts and Information about Rhododendrons and Azaleas3/15/2012


Did you know that fossil records show that Rhododendrons have been around for at least 50 MILLION YEARS – and have changed very little in flower form and habit?    After a quick google search, I did find that is 47 MILLION years prior to the most recent Ice age.  Fire was discovered 700 thousand years ago, and Neaderthals arrived 200 thousand years ago.  With this new information, I suspect I will always look at Rhododendrons as the knowledgeable elder in my garden, and will treat them with respect and patience.  The majority of naturally occurring species are native to Asia, and presently we recognize about 1000 different  species.


Rhododendrons and azaleas offer some features and advantages that are not found in other garden selections.   Very few other evergreen shrubs produce such a vivid spectacle of color in March and April.  As a broadleaf evergreen, it is a highly desirable medium- size shrub that can camouflage an area when deciduous plants have lost their leaves in the winter.  They are versatile in their sun requirements and can be combined with other choices to create a beautiful all season garden.  In full sun you can consider planting them as a backdrop for mid-to-late season flowering perennials.  When planted in a shady spot, they make a colorful display when planted with hostas, astilbe’s or bergenia.  For a beautiful and natural look, consider planting in front of pink or white dogwood. 


When planting Rhodo’s and Azalea’s you want to make sure you provide them with good drainage.  If your ground retains water, consider planting them above or semi-above the ground in a raised bed.  This will assure that your investment is getting the proper drainage for its root system.  These are acid loving plants, and in our area, you will get the best results by amending your soil with a soil acidifier, and fertilize with an acid based fertilizer such as organic Holly-tone. 


As with all newly planted shrubs watering is important.  You should follow a regular watering schedule of 1 inch per week through the summer.  HOWEVER, overwatering is the leading cause of difficulty especially in an area that is not well drained.  Frequently this will be noticed as leaves drooping and wilting in spite of adequate water supply.  This often fools the homeowner, thinking that the plant needs water.  If you notice this, investigate immediately.  If you find that the ground is wet, you can remedy this by channeling water away from the site. 


As your plant matures, I hope that you will look back and smile, and wonder….will this species be around another  50 million years?