Plant of the Month: Azaleas and Rhododendrons

Azaleas and Rhododendrons are the jewels of the late spring garden. Rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas provide interest all year round, while deciduous azaleas produce excellent autumn leaf colours. There are literally thousands of species and varieties and a huge range of flower colours. Their exquisite blooms bring notes of exotic colour to pots and containers, beds and borders and lightly shaded areas under trees.  Some are compact enough for the smallest gardens, others require the space of a woodland where they can reach massive proportions.

What’s the difference between Azaleas and Rhododendrons?

Our Top Picks

Azalea Homebush

• RHS Garden Merit Award winner

• Huge pompom-like trusses of double pink star-shaped flowers

• Easy to grow, highly fragrant and pollinator friendly

• Yellow-green deciduous foliage

• Perfect for borders, flowering hedges and containers

Rhododendron Sappho

• Purple buds open to wavy-edged white flowers with deep purple markings

• 9 flower trusses

• Easy to grow and evergreen

• Dark green, glossy ovate leaves

• Perfect for borders, hedging, screening and containers

Azalea Anneke

• Highly fragrant, large, lemon yellow flowers with gold spotting and yellow stamens

• 9 flower trusses with each flower spanning 8-10 in diameter

• Easy to grow

• Perfect for pots, containers and the border

Rhododendron Norfolk Candy

• Large, apricot-orange flushed maroon flowers

• Broad glossy forest green foliage

• Low maintenance and pollinator-friendly

• Perfect for borders or containers

Azalea japonica Pink Spider

• Large pink flowers with a white edge

 Dark, narrow foliage

• Compact, bushy shrub

• Hardy and evergreen

• Perfect for growing in the border, pots on the patio or balcony

Rhododendron Collection

• Includes one each of Sappho, Nova Zembla, Norfolk Candy and Marcel Menard

• Perfect for spring borders, pots or containers

Azalea Dwarf diamond japanese collection

 • Includes one each of Lilac, Red, Pink, White and Orange.

• Compact, small leaf Japanese Azaleas

• Masses of brightly coloured blooms

• Small, dark green foliage

• Perfect for patio pots or borders.

Planting

Planting time: October – March/April

April – Plant of the Month

Dwarf Rhododendrons

Dwarf-Rhododendrons

The stunning flowers of the Rhododendron have earned them a legion of fans, and quite right too! Some varieties of full size Rhododendrons will simply keep growing until they grow into giant trees, although you can prune them down, these larger varieties may not be an option in your garden.

This month we’re taking a look at some stunning dwarf varieties. The compact growth habit of these shrubs give them an outstanding formal appearance, making them ideal for small city gardens or courtyards where space is at a premium. They’re even small enough to slot nicely beneath taller shrubs in the border, or grow nicely in a rock garden.

Rhododendron Princess Anne

Rhododendron-Princess-Anne
A dwarf evergreen shrub variety with soft primrose yellow flowers which appear in spring, sitting nicely alongside the green foliage. A very reliable performer, its holds the RHS Award of Garden Merit. Height and spread only 50-60cm as adult plant.

POTM-AGM-April

Rhododendron Dwarf Collection

Dwarf-Rhododendrons
Our collection brings together Scarlet Wonder (red), Moerheim Lilac (lilac/mauve) and Pink Drift (cool-toned, light pink). A burst of colour for your border or patio, all three are exceptionally compact and manageable. These varieties produce trusses of up to three funnel shaped, vibrant flowers from April-June, against a lush background of ovate, glossy dark green leaves.

Planting

POTM-April

You can plant out in March/April or in October.

Prepare the ground by digging in plenty of compost, neutral or acidic organic matter, or leafmold etc. Plant so the roots are covered, not too deep and apply a good layer of mulch lightly over the surface, don’t pack it down. Re-mulch and feed with an ericaceous fertiliser each spring.

Ericaceous fertiliser? This is for plants that are not as happy in limey soils. It’s a lime-free acidic compost that was habitually made with peat – however as awareness that adding peat to soils is bad for the environment you can now easily find peat free varieties to buy.

Dwarf varieties can cope with positioning in full sun but need evenly moist, well drained soils so keep on top of watering them in the hottest part of summer. Rhododendrons like lots of water and use rain-water if you can – you should particularly avoid tap-water if you live in a hard water area. As with larger Rhododendrons they won’t do at all well subjected to frost so take care to protect them and avoid areas you know are prone to it in your garden.

Rhododendron Praecox

Rhododendron-Praecox-without-label
Technically this one will reach a mature height of 150cm, so not quite as dwarf as the varieties above but this stunning variety shouldn’t be missed out. Its one of the earliest flowering varieties, producing an abundance of rose-purple blooms as early as February and throughout March. It holds the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Azaleas and Rhododendrons – what’s the difference?

In truth not very much! Azaleas are a group within the Rhododendron family and they have some small differences. Rhododendrons will have ten or more stamens, while an Azalea will usually have five stamens. Rhododendrons have larger leaves and they will be paddle-shaped, Azalea have smaller, elliptical leaves. Also Rhododendrons are evergreen, whereas Azaleas can be evergreen or deciduous.