Non-decidious Rhododendrons for zone 5a?

whaas_5a(5A SE WI)November 25, 2009

I have a protected eastern exposure location that I wanted season long color. Boxwoods where my 1st choice, but are there any non-decidious Rhododendrons for zone 5a?

I don't think there are but thought I ask.

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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Sure. PJM and its siblings are the most promising. There are others also. The University of Minnesota has a website on plants suitable for your area:

The azaleas are all deciduous, but PJM and its siblings are evergreen.

Also look at the proven performers lists for the Great Lakes and the Midwest at:

Elepidotes are the large leaved evergreen rhododendrons.

Lepidotes are the small leaved evergreen rhododendrons.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to care for rhododendrons and azaleas.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2009 at 11:31PM
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I have Cunningham's White. I had it on a north wall for a couple years, and only had 1 bloom for 1 day, not enough sunlight. I moved it this year to an indirect sunlight location, though I suspect it needs more sunlight, but overall it has done well for me aside from lack of blooms -it will be moved again in the spring to dappled sunlight.

Cambridge tree project has both white and red flowering varieties available for $18/each for a 2 footer (see my response in trees forum about cambridge), though they don't have cultivars listed.

This is the response I got from Rhodyman back in 2008 when I asked about red flowering varieties for our zone, included are his comments about Cunningham's White:

Here are a couple:
Firestorm: Flower openly funnel-shaped, wavy edges, 3 1/4" across, bright deep red, unmarked. Dome-shaped trusses of 15-16. Height in 10 years is 3 ft. Hardy to -25°F (-32°C) Leaves elliptic, apiculate apex, rounded base, flat, 4 1/2" to 6" long, dark green with lighter midribs, retained 3 years. New foliage is lime colored. Spreading habit. It is available from Greer Gardens in Eugene, Oregon

Rangoon: Flower widely funnel-campanulate, wavy lobes, 2" across, moderate to dark red. No markings. Held in dome-shaped truss of 7-8 flowers. Height in 10 years is 3 ft. Hardy to -15°F (-26°C). Leaves elliptic, apiculate apex, cuneate base, 3 3/8" long, dark green, retained 2 years. Plant width 2x the height. It is available from Rare Find Nursery in Jackson, NJ

Cunningham's White is one of the oldest varieties and is very adaptive to most soils, growing in very slightly acidic to very acidic soils. For this reason it is used in Europe as a root stock for grafted rhododendrons.
Cunningham's White is hardy to -15F. Grows to 4' by 4' in 10 years. Will get bigger if left to grow as will all rhododendrons.

Nova Zembla is hardy to -25F and is a true deep red, not pinkish. It grows to 5' by 5' in 10 years.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 3:59PM
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Am just getting into gardening with my first home so I find this forum great. I live in zone 5. Looking for something to plant as a hedge underneath the front bay window right by the main door. I was thinking of boxwoods as well but I would really like some color. Something that is not high maintenance either and can be kept looking somewhat neat and less than 3-4 ft height with occasional trimming since it is right by th main entrance.
Which of the rhododendrons would you recommend.
I like the idea of PJM with mahogany leaves in winter. On the other hand would like a color other than pink!
The other bay window is in a corner and gets direct sunlight only for 2-3 hours in the morning in summer, very little in winter. How well would Rhododendrons do there?
Any other recommendations for an evergreen flowering shrub for a hedge? Do rhododendrons make neat looking hedges? never seen a rhododendron hedge so I'm not sure. Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 9:20PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Actually PJM and its cousins fit your bill very well. They are hardy, low growing, and tolerate shade quite well. They come in different colors. Here are some I found at RareFind Nursery:

Mrs. J.A. Withington III, double lavender flowers

Northern Starburst, lavender flowers, low mound shape

Olga Mezitt, pink, blooms later and doesn't get frozen back as often

PJM Compact Selection' Jim Cross, dark lavender pink

Bubblegum, pink

Faisa, lavender blue

Karin Seleger, purple-violet, very low

Landmark, red

Mindaura, lavender pink

Molly Fordham, white

Here is a link that might be useful: Rare Find Nursery in NJ

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 10:02AM
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Thanks! Since its a smaller space, are there any evergreen azaleas that you would recommend for a hedge. I saw some on the ARS website but want some opinions as well.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 10:07AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Most rhododendron and azalea experts cringe at the thought of a rhododendron or azalea hedge. However, if you go to Japan, they landscape with meticulously manicured azalea hedges. They don't mind pruning flower buds off if it means a more manicured look.

In general do not prune between summer and when it blooms in the following spring or you will be pruning off flower buds. Do prune immediately after they bloom but before the start of summer. Late bloomers can be pruned for several weeks after they bloom.

Also, when pruning, prune to get air flow into the plant to avoid fungal diseases. When pruning for a hedge, this is nearly impossible, so disease resistant varieties are essential.

Growing evergreen azaleas in zone 5 is a challenge. Some of the hardier evergreen azalea are:

Karens, a very hardy lavender-purple azalea with a low habit & good for hedges
Bixby, red and very low habit
Helen Curtis, white and very low habit with good leaf retention in winter & good for hedges
Hino-red, red and extremely low habit (note, this is much hardier than hino-crimson)
Hino-white, white and extremely low habit
Marie's Choice, white and very low habit

[low habit is 4' in 10 years, very low is 2' in 10 years, and extremely low is 1' in 10 years]

I have a rhododendron hedge about 50 feet long, but I never prune the top, just the sides. Height doesn't matters since the hedge forms a backdrop beside my garage. It has, after 35 years, grow to over 8 feet tall. I planted two rows of rhododendrons 4' apart. Each row had the plants 4' apart. The first 2 plants in each row were one variety, the next two were the same variety, etc. The effect was that 4 plants of the same variety were near each other and grew together into one large plant. The different varieties grew into each other also.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to care for rhododendrons and azaleas.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 11:29AM
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Thanks! I have 4 azaleas in the back facing west planted along the base of my patio. My in laws got them for me at a sale last fall and they were pretty beat up at the time. But they burst out in spring with some amazing red color. I was surprised too because that spot gets a fair amount of summer sun in the afternoon. This fall the leaves turned to a nice bronze color.
Don' t know which one it is but will look up the ones you mentioned.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 3:49PM
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I've narrowed it down to either PJM or Novi Zembla or Blue nose. I'm assuming blue nose will do well in MI, rarefind says its good to zone 4 as well.

What would you pick?
I like the idea of blue but red is also appealing. PJM is pink, not my ideal color but then offers the great foliage color in winter......

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 10:28PM
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Get one of each as you will get hooked on this and you will be a head of the normal game.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2009 at 12:28PM
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Rhodyman, any reason you did not recommend azalea Stewartsonian for a hedge?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 7:16PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

In general Stewarsonian is not quite as hardy as the ones I mentioned according to most reports. It is very close and could be considered.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 11:50PM
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    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 8:19PM
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Just to add a bit more info:

I had Stewartsonian for a while. The plant as a whole did fine (we have gotten to -22 F)several years) but the flower blossoms weren't quite hardy enough. The plants only flowered below where the snow line was when it was coldest, so the top half of the plant was green while the lower part bloomed - kind of weird looking. It's also a somewhat orangy red, so clashes with the purples and pinks in my opinion.

Landmark, though advertised as red, is really a darker pink to my eye, not a true red like Nova Zembla.

I have Roseum Elegans, Checkmate (a short PJM), PJM, Olga Metzitt, Nova Zembla, chinoides, Independence Day, & Yaku Prince. They are all relatively common (except the last 2 perhaps) and are hardy enough to do fine here (though the Yaku Prince may not bloom every year; I don't know yet since it's only a couple of years old.)

You also might want to look at Mt. Laurel, another heath family member with spring flowers and evergreen leaves that are of a slightly different texture.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 7:36PM
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Catawbas are hardy to zone 4, and there are cultivars in several sizes (though the species is fairly large).

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 11:18PM
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