Rhododendrons as trees

Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)May 10, 2011

I have often recommended rhododendrons when gardeners along the northern coast are looking for small evergreen trees with showy flowers. The usual response is something along the lines of, "no, I want a tree, not a shrub."

There is no firm botanical distinction between a large shrub and a small tree. It often comes down to how the plant is shaped by the gardener. Since they are in bloom now, I'll take this opportunity to illustrate the principle with a photo from a local subdivision where rhododendron trees are found throughout. A canopy of magenta projects above the rooftops and can be seen from two blocks away.

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Wow! Those are magnificent. Survivors planted long ago?

You are right, what are commonly called shrubs can eventually become trees. I have seen plain old Privit, Ligustrum japonicum, as good looking limbed-up trees of 25-30 feet. Small trees can become pretty large, too. Sunday I saw a 30' Pomegranate tree.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 2:00PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

In their native land, many of the original spp. can get 35-40 feet (that is not to say those in cultivation will). Those certainly brighten up that bleak built environment!

Dan

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 2:05PM
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calistoga_al

When I lived in Watsonville my work led me into many of the backyards of the old homes built in the 1920s most of two story construction. Old Rhododendrons that must have over fifty years old climbed the full two stories, partly because of other mature forest trees creating excess shade. Few looking at them would say they were a shrub. Unfortunately climbing for the light did not help the shape or the amount of bloom. Al

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 8:51AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

Those are amazing! A few years ago I got to visit a garden in Japan full of tree rhodies, it was my first time seeing them and I was blown away.

About how long does it take a Rhododendron to grow that large? 10 years or more? I thought they were supposed to be planted in shady conditions, is that just in hot summer climates?

Thanks for sharing!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 9:36AM
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