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While they have a ubiquity that can make you take these spring flowering shrubs for granted, there are at least three reasons why you need to plant (or plant more) rhodies:
- Astonishing spring flowers that come in a range of sumptuous colors and seem to appear from out of nowhere after a long, cold winter. Quite the pick-me-up in the window after witch hazel shrubs flowers but before the lilacs bloom.
- Speaking of winter, they’re one of the few shrubs that stay reliably evergreen during the worst of the season. And, they’re elegant when paired with that other winter stalwart, conifers.
- They grow best in the light shade including the north side of the house (not the easiest place for plants), and thrive in acid soils, even under high-canopied conifers.
Most are hardy in zones 5 – 8, though there are a few that can take more chill and others that can take a bit more heat. Many are compact in habit and fill the voids around foundations and in front of taller shade-lovers, but if you need height, some can get large. Choose carefully now to avoid unnecessary pruning for size later. Planted now they’ll bring on a bit of bloom, but next spring, get out of the way. They’ll be cloaked in festive color.
Keeping Rhodie Happy:
- Provide well-drained, acidic soil, rich in organic matter.
- Avoid harsh sun and wind.
- Mulch to keep roots cool.
- Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system.
- Feed with an acid fertilizer after bloom.
- Pruning time: spring after flowering.
Pahl’s Market carries these and other excellent selections of zone 4 Rhododendrons:
One of the hardiest Rhododendrons for the upper midwest. Masses of mauve flowers bloom in spring putting on a spectacular show. An evergreen with glossy green foliage throughout the growing season, changing to a pleasing purple in the fall. Needs acid, moist, well-drained soil for best performance.
Small dark green foliage that turns light mahogany in winter. Clusters of pink flowers in spring. Compact grower selected for its earlier flowering. Hardy to -24 Degrees F.
Purple Gem Rhododendron
Dense-growing, dwarf evergreen shrub valued for its large trusses of showy flowers. “Purple Gem” has azalea-like foliage. Prefers cooler regions but some protection from winter wind is helpful.