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Best Rhododendron Cultivars for Raleigh

Posted by safariofthemind z7b NC (My Page) on
Tue, May 4, 10 at 0:23

For you Rhodo fans, what cultivars have you found do best for you in the 7b temps? I have an unnamed cultivar with mauve flowers that is popular in our neighborhood and gets to about 5' tall. It does well enough but the color of the blooms is not the nicest. I'd love to have a white and a deep red one. Any suggestions?

I'm thinking of going around nurseries right now while they are blooming so I can see the flowers...

Also, any suggestions on places to find well grown plants?

Thanks, RJ

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Best Rhododendron Cultivars for Raleigh

I hate to be my own "follow up" message, but I found this article in Southern Living that discusses Rhodos and Azaleas. The Grumpy Gardener (love that name!) talks about some of the types that seem to do well in the South. I'd love to get you all's opinion on his choices and any omissions.

Apparently there are over 850 species of Rhodos but most like mild weather, like that found in the Pacific West or England's west coast. And of course, who in this area hasn't seen the magnificent Mountain Laurels in the mountains in bloom - I wish it'd would grow here for sure. But there's got to be more to life than the HomeDepotLowesYourGardenCenter's commercial choices out there.


Here is a link that might be useful: Link to SL Article

RE: Best Rhododendron Cultivars for Raleigh

You probably know that "mountain laurel" is not the same as Rhododendron, but just want to clear that up. Mountain laurel is Kalmia latifolia, a shrub (that gets big in ideal conditions) and which likes the same conditions as Rhododendron.

As the article says, Rhododendron catawbiense is the native species (one of them, R. maximum is another but you rarely find that in Home Depot/Lowes). Nova Zemblaand Roseum Elegans are the two that I see most often in the HD/Lowes type stores; the first one is a deep pink, the second is more of a purple. Sometimes you can find one of the white forms too ('Album' or 'Alba' depending on who's spelling it). These are hybrids of the native R. catawbiense.

Here is a link that might be useful: Roseum Elegans

RE: Best Rhododendron Cultivars for Raleigh

You are quite right, Kalmia is Rhodo-like but technically is a different type within the ericacious family. I think of them as rhodo-like because of the leaves and habit and the fact they grow in acid soil under similar circumstances.

Thanks for the info. There is a neat site online by a Rhodo fan. I am including the link below. While digging around some more I also found this list of "Proven Performers" for the NC/SC area from the Rhodo Society - it would be nice to find someone who's actually grown them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Henning's Rhodo Page

RE: Best Rhododendron Cultivars for Raleigh

The only one I know that I've tried from the Southern Living article is 'Ramapo'. They had them at Home Depot one year. Lovely color but very fussy about cultural conditions and I ended up killing it. It would probably be happier in the NC mountains than in the Piedmont, at least that's the excuse I settled on.

At my last house I inherited a ton of gorgeous deciduous azaleas, old varieties that I never did identify, and I wasn't smart enough at the time to propagate them for when I moved. Having inherited a very different set of azaleas at this house, I've learned to pick varieties that have a more 'graceful' abscission. The ones at this house hold onto their faded, browning flowers way past when they should and the effect is rather ugly, I think. So I'd say avoid anything called Red Ruffles like the plague. At my last garden the azalea blooms dropped when they were still fresh looking and the look of the scattered blooms on the ground was very pretty. The only one I've acquired since that goes out of bloom as gracefully as it comes into bloom is (I think) George Lindley Tabor, which is on your proven performers list. Also on that list is R. minus, which I've seen grow wild just north of here. For the most part, I've been trying to grow native deciduous azaleas through the woods and keep the deer from ruining my vision.

Just for interest, I've also been told there's a bluff with Kalmia somewhere along the Eno River in Durham, not far from me, so apparently with the right cultural conditions they will grow around here.

RE: Best Rhododendron Cultivars for Raleigh

Kalmia sounds lovely in our gardens here in the Piedmont. This part of North Wake County is just a bit cooler than where the city is and I can grow Lilacs. I wonder how Kalmia would do here (it's near Bayleaf, just north of 540 at Stonebridge subdivision).

RE: Best Rhododendron Cultivars for Raleigh

Most of the ones I grow are Rhododendron catawbiense. These have done well for me in moist, but well drained soil. They require mulch and a fair amount of shade if you don't want to spend your summer watering them!

I also grow Mountain Laurel. These seem to be very slow growing!

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