How To Grow And Propagate Rhododendrons

Known for their Bright and showy display of colour, Perennial Rhododendrons often take centre stage in the garden. The Epitome of Spring, these beauties burst into colour around April-May, bringing some much needed vibrancy after the slumber of Winter….


Rhododendron Characteristics

Rhododendron is an evergreen shrub that belongs to a very large genus of over 1,000 species. Like Azaleas, it belongs to the heath family (Ericaceae family)

Flowers come in a wide range of colours such as white, pink, red, purple, blue and yellow and are tubular to funnel-shaped, they can also be scented or unscented.True Rhododendrons have only five anthers per flower (Anthers: the part of a stamen that produces and contains pollen)

Leaves can be light or dark green and are thick, sometimes shiny, with an almost leathery feel. Each leaf is around 3-to-4-inches long and are arrowhead shaped.


6 Interesting Rhododendron Facts

1. Bloom Period Depends on Climate

How long do rhododendron flowers last?– Depending on the climate, Rhododendrons can bloom for 3 weeks of the year right upto 7 months! In mild climates or Temperate oceanic climates they bloom for the longest period. But the colder a climate gets, the shorter the bloom time. Here in the Uk, we have to settle for just 3-4 weeks of flowers, arriving around April-May.

2. An Old Rose

Documented as far back as the 16th century, Rhododendrons were originally referred to as tree roses. The name of the plant is actually derived from the Greek words for rose (rhodon) and tree (dendron). 

3. The National Flower of Nepal!

Did you know that Rhododendrons, or specifically Rhododendron arboreum is the national flower of Nepal! Called Lali gurans in Nepali, it is a much-loved national flower of the nepalese people.

4. Little and Large!

The largest species of Rhododendron is the protistum var. giganteum variety. Which can grow to a whopping 30 metres tall! The smaller dwarf species can grow between 10-100 cm

5. Rhododendron Symbolism

Looking to win the lottery?! Then Planting a Rhododendron can’t hurt! Symbolic of abundance, riches and prosperity this plant could change your fortunes! Rhododendron is also regarded as a healer of relationships, symbolic of reconciliation, the gift of A Rhododendron could help to build broken bridges.

6. Azaleas And Rhododendrons Are Related!

Rhododendrons and Azaleas are both from the Rhododendron family. Rhododendron is a group of plants with common characteristics, while Azaleas are a sub-group within this genus.

WHERE TO PLANT Rhododendron

When To Plant Out Rhododendron? -In October or March/April.

Rhododendron love a sheltered spot. Perfect for growing at the edge of a woodland border in dappled shade, but not deep shade! They like a little sun too.

*Dwarf alpine types will tolerate full sun provided the soil does not dry out. So keep on top of the watering!

Don’t plant your Rhododendron too deep. Dig your planting hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Plant with the roots just slightly below the soil level

WHEN DO Rhododendron BLOOM?

Rhododendron are flowering shrubs, usually bearing their first flowers between April and May, dependant on the variety you’re growing of course.

ARE Rhododendron EVERGREEN?

Rhododendrons are evergreen, meaning they will hold their leaves all winter long.

Rhododendron buds
Rhododendron in bud

CAN YOU GROW Rhododendron IN POTS?

You Bet! Rhododendrons are shallow rooted plants, so they don’t require a lot of depth. The roots of evergreen Rhododendron have a compact mass of fine feeder roots that spread to only 12 inches deep. Perfect for container growing

  • The best time to plant Rhododendrons are in Spring and Autumn
  • Rhododendrons love a well drained humus-rich, neutral to acidic soil. Choose a good quality ericaceous compost for Rhododendrons in pots.
  • As with all pot grown plants, the soil does tend to dry out quicker during the warmer months, so water frequently, once or twice a week…but not too much, Rhododendrons dislike waterlogged soil.
  • Top Tip: Replace the top layer of compost in potted Rhododendrons every year in early spring 

HOW TO PROPAGATE Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons can be grown from seed, but to propagate particular cultivars it is necessary to propagate via cuttings or layering….

Select the Cutting:

  • Take a semi-ripe heel cutting from the Rhododendron in mid summer. What is a heel cutting? Heel cuttings are made where a stem is pulled off with a piece of the stem attached. See below for an example.
heel cutting

Plant The Cutting:

  1. Remove all leaves from the bottom third of the cutting, and remove all flower buds.
  2. Dip the stem in a rooting hormone.
  3. Push the cutting one-third into a pot of ericaceous compost.
  4. Cover with a cellophane bag or propagator lid and place on a windowsill with indirect light. Keep the soil moist, but not sodden.
  5. After two months the Rhododendron stem cuttings should have grown roots. To check for root growth, gently tug on the cutting, if you feel resistance you can remove the cellophane bag . *Sometimes it takes longer than 2 months try to be patient.
  6. Once a good root system has developed , pot on into a larger container and start slowly exposing the cutting to outdoor conditions. before planting out in to a partially shaded spot

Propagation Via Layering:

Propagating Rhododendron by layering is a very simple technique that involves taking a low-growing branch and pegging it to the ground so it can take root. This is best undertaken in late Summer

SHOULD YOU PRUNE Rhododendron?

Here’s the good news! Rhododendron don’t need a great deal of pruning. I simply deadhead when the flowers are spent, and remove any dead or damaged wood as needed.

However, should your Rhododendron become too big for its environment, a hard prune may be necessary. Cut Back at the end of your plants’ bloom cycle when the current blooms fade. 


Do rhododendrons smell good?

Rhododendrons, can be scented and unscented. Blooms that do have a fragrance can have a sweet or even spicy smell.


Is Rhododendron Invasive?

It can be! Wild Rhododendron ponticum for example can rapidly dominate its habitat if left unchecked. Dwarf varieties are obviously easier to limit. Just practice good gardening practices to keep your Rhododendrons in check .


It’s very unlikely that your furry friends will snack on your Rhododendrons! However, you should be aware that all parts of Rhododendrons are toxic and once consumed can cause Nausea, difficulty breathing and may be even fatal if eaten in large quantities.





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