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These large, colorful woodland shrubs and small trees offer everything from bright flower clusters to evergreen foliage.

rhododendron flowering shrubs

With a range of sizes and shapes, rhododendrons hold a valued place in the landscape. They range from compact shrubs to short understory trees to 80-foot-tall giants, although most rhododendrons sold grow no more than 10 feet in height. Rhododendrons seldom need trimming, so they’re a good choice for low-maintenance gardens. There are countless species, but breeders have been releasing newer hybrids with improved tolerance to sun, cold weather, diseases, and insects. If your climate is too cold for azaleas, look to rhododendrons for a winter-hardy substitute.

Rhododendrons can be distinguished from azaleas by their large leathery evergreen leaves and large clusters of flowers that appear at the ends of branches rather than along the sides and tips.

Good companions include: dogwood, azalea, camellia, hosta, ferns, epimedium, holly and mountain laurel.

vignette of yellow rhododendron

Plant Type: Shrub

Zones: 5–9

Height: 2–10 ft

Width: 2–10 ft

Light Exposure: Partial Sun, Full Shade

Bloom Color: Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow

Bloom Time: Early Spring, Mid Spring, Late Spring

Foilage Color: Green

Special Features: Attracts Butterflies, Fragrant Flowers, Low Maintenance

Uses: Container Plant, Cut Flowers, Screen/Privacy, Foundation Plant, Informal Hedge


Growing Rhododendrons

Like azaleas, rhododendrons prefer more sun in the North, more shade in the South. A good situation in either case is dappled shade throughout the day or morning sun and afternoon shade. Ample moisture and good drainage are essential. A slightly acidic pH is preferred. Keep the shallow roots moist with a layer of mulch, preferably leaf litter, compost, pine chips or pine straw. Shelter from wind, which can desiccate leaves. Plant multiple cultivars to extend the bloom season.

Northwest Gardening: Rhododendron Species and Botanical Garden

Visit the Rhododendron Species Garden where you'll find wonderful and exotic rhododendrons, and thousands of their companion plants.

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Plant a Shade Garden

Well-chosen plants that thrive in shade can transform your yard into a relaxing green oasis.

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13 Great Shrubs for Spring Color

Looking for a plant to add height and color to your spring landscape? Try a spring-blooming shrub. Here’s a baker’s dozen that are more than up to the task.

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