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Early Flowering Rhododendrons

RhododendronPacific In the Northwest one of the most popular garden shrubs is the rhododendron. One of the greatest advantages of this shrub is that it is evergreen and many varieties flower at varying times of the year. In fact, by proper selection of varieties it's possible to have continual flowering for up to six months or more. In this article we’ll discuss a few of the early flowering varieties.

At a time when there is not much flower color in the garden it is nice to be able to include plants that provide early color. The early flowering rhododendrons vary in color from beautiful pinks, rose, reds, yellows, whites, purples and lavenders.

Growing heights of these early varieties of rhododendrons vary from about two feet high, to varieties that may grow into small trees when mature.

Whenever possible, these early flowering varieties are best planted in a location in the garden where they will be protected from late winter frosts, that could possibly damage buds or flowers.

I think one of the most important factors in selecting any plant, but particularly rhododendrons, is to select varieties that have attractive foliage. The plants are in bloom for only about three or four weeks, so the rest of the year you are looking at foliage. So good leaf color and pleasing textures are important considerations when choosing rhododendrons.

It is estimated that there are close to one thousand species and thousands of varieties of rhododendrons. So with this wide selection it should be fairly easy to choose one with the right flower color; attractive foliage and a growing habit to meet the needs of any location in the garden.

The following are just a few varieties that you may want to consider for their beauty and early flowering:

R. mucronulatum - this is a deciduous variety that will grow about four feet in ten years. The January or February flowers are a bright rosy-purple.

Praecox - attractive rosy-purple flowers appear on this evergreen variety in February and March. It grows about three feet high in ten years.

Bric-a-brac - showy white flowers generally appear in March. Expect it to grow to a height of about two feet in ten years.

PJM - this is one of my favorites because of the bright vivid flower color; upright growth habit and attractive leaves. Flowers are bright lavender pink. Expect it to grow about four feet in ten years. Flowers in March or a little earlier, some years.

Cilpinense - flowers are light pink at first, fading to white. Blooms in late February or early March. Protect early flowers from frost. Nice bushy habit of growth to about 30 inches in ten years.

Christmas Cheer RhodyRosamundi and Christmas Cheer - two excellent large leafed varieties. Early flowering, generally in late February or early March. Flowers pink to white on both varieties. Christmas Cheer grows to about 3 feet in ten years and Rosamunda just a little taller.

Blue Diamond - attractive violet-blue flowers cover this bushy plant in early April. It grows about three feet in ten years.

Conemaugh - frilly lavender-pink, bell shaped flowers in late March. Height is about three feet in ten years.

Brocade (pink); Tessa (rosy-lilac); R. lutescens (yellow) and R. moupinense (soft pink) are just a few of the others. A visit to your favorite garden outlet at this time of the year will give you an opportunity to become acquainted with others.

In fact, I think the best time to select rhododendrons is when they are in bloom. At that time, you can actually choose them for their true flower color, growth habit; leaf texture and foliage color.

Mid- February or late March (after bloom) are the best times of the year to feed rhododendrons. Use an acid type, rhododendron fertilizer, for this job. Be sure to water -in the fertilizer after it is applied.

It is especially important to plant rhododendrons right at ground level, so that the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Planting too deeply will result in the plant growing, but it may not flower at all, if planted too deep.

If rhododendrons need to be pruned, the best time to prune them is immediately after they have finished flowering. Fortunately, most varieties have a very compact growth habit and seldom need pruning of any kind.

It's pretty hard to beat the beauty of rhododendrons in the Pacific Northwest garden. By including some of these early flowering varieties in your garden, you can create a splash of flower color, early in the gardening season.

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See Also: Shaping Rhododendrons  Pruning Damaged Rhododendrons  Rhododendron Blooms  Rhododendrons Not Blooming  Taking Cuttings

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