Rhododendrons grow in all sizes and shapes - from low growing ground covers, to
medium-sized shrubs, to tree-size plants. Some varieties naturally have a rounded, ball-shaped
plant habit, others are open and spreading, while other rhododendrons have an upright growth
habit. You can find a rhododendron to fit any specific garden need.
Rhododendrons can be planted in the garden as specimen plants, or incorporated in a bed or
border with other shrubs and plants. Tall growing rhododendrons make ideal screens while medium-sized
rhododendrons and azaleas are well suited for island beds and borders. Low-growing rhododendrons can be
placed in front of other rhododendrons or used as foundation plantings.
Commonly, rhododendrons are grouped together to achieve various designs, considering
plant size, leaf size and texture, flower color, bloom time and other factors. Evergreen azaleas look
nice placed together in masses using varieties that bloom at the same time and colors that blend nicely together.
Planting rhododendrons in groups of three is suggested to avoid creating a too "spotty" looking landscape.
Consideration should be given to the mature height of rhododendrons when planting. If
they are not placed with height in mind the taller growing plants can shade out the shorter
plants. Plant height estimates after 10 years for rhododendrons and azaleas are provided in the web site's
searchable rhododendron and
azalea databases. Rhododendrons have shallow,
fibrous roots so if they do need to be relocated for any reason they can be easily transplanted.
Rhododendrons have leaves in many shapes, colors, textures and sizes that add interest and
beauty to the garden at any time of the year. The underside of rhododendron leaves sometimes are covered with
plastered silver, tan or brown indumentum which can be seen when the leaves are ruffled by the wind.
Some varieties have strikingly-colored new leaves that add
dramatic beauty as the new leaves unfurl.
One common misconception is that rhododendrons should be planted in deep shade. This often
results in plants that have very few flowers. Light is the primary factor
that stimulates flower bud development. Spring blooming rhododendrons set buds in the late summer to early fall and it's
essential that they receive adequate light as the buds develop. Rhododendrons should be planted where they receive
sufficient light so that the plants set flower buds, but not in too sunny a location that leaf damage occurs.
More information about how to include rhododendrons and azaleas in your landscape
can be found in the following Journal ARS articles:
Landscapes With Rhododendron by Clive Justice
Rhododendrons in the Landscape by Doan R. Ogden
Rhododendrons for Foliage Effect by Felice Blake
The Rest of the Year by Parker Smith