Tips for Beginners: The Best Rhododendron Species for the East Coast
Bent Mountain, Virginia
Princeton, New Jersey
At the ARS Northeast Regional Conference in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in October 7, 1997, three long-time members presented a program on the rhododendron species that do best in their gardens: Dick Brooks of Concord, Massachusetts; Hank Schannen of Princeton, New Jersey; and George Ring of Bent Mountain, Virginia. Their experience and comments are a guide for East Coast beginners who wish to grow species successfully.
DICK BROOKS, Concord, Massachusetts:
R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum. The first species mentioned - a true winner.
R. oreodoxa var. fargesii. Interesting new foliage.
R. smirnowii. Get one bud hardy for your area.
R. minus Carolinianum Group. A wonderful landscape plant.
R. keiskei. Dwarf forms, such as 'Yaku Fairy' are more hardy.
R. mucronulatum. Form 'Cornel Pink' and others.
R. fastigiatum (subsection Lapponica)
R. hippophaeoides (subsection Lapponica). Tolerates moist conditions but plant looks dead in winter.
R. prinophyllum. Very good fragrance.
R. schlippenbachii. Can grow 10 feet tall (see photo front cover).
GEORGE RING, Bent Mountain, Virginia
The region to which Mr. Ring referred covers the Deep South, Piedmont, and mountainous areas, USDA Zones 5-9. In the Deep South species must be able to take the heat and not be susceptible to root rot. Perfect drainage is especially important in the warm climates. In the mountains of Virginia, he grows several natives plus 45 other species including deciduous azaleas, natives of Japan, Taiwan, Korea and a few from China. Late frosts limit the use of R. williamsianum and other early bloomers. (For a complete list of the species he grows at Bent Mountain, see the Spring 1997 issue.)
SPECIES TOLERATING MOST EXPOSURE
HANK SCHANNEN, Princeton, New Jersey
Mr. Schannen's "slam-dunk" species are those he grows in central New Jersey, an 11-acre site with perfect drainage in USDA Zone 6B with about 17 days of 90°F. weather. At this site heat is a greater killer than cold. Also warm sun on cold winter days can be a problem.
R. maximum. Curly leaf form.
R. catawbiense 'Catalgla'.
R. catawbiense var. album.
R. fortunei. Various forms.
R. decorum. Gable's hardy white form.
R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum. Exbury form.
R. metternichii. Now known as R. degronianum var. heptamerum.
R. smirnowii. Pick right form for bud hardiness.
R. brachycarpum. White form.
R. carolinianum album. (Now R. minus Carolinianum Group.);
'Epoch' (a tetraploid).
R. keiskei 'Yaku Fairy' and other forms.
R. mucronulatum 'Crater's Edge'.
R. mucronulatum White flowered.
R. vaseyi. White flowered.
R. kiusianum. Many forms.