JARS v56n3 - Tips for Beginners: Twelve Months of Flowering Rhododendrons In the Pacific Northwest

Tips for Beginners: Twelve Months of Flowering Rhododendrons In the Pacific Northwest

This list is a publication of the Seattle Chapter, 1997. It has been slightly modified for publication in the Journal, with updates to nomenclature and unregistered names marked with an asterisk. Although the list is intended for Seattle gardeners, it is generally applicable for the Pacific Northwest.

Many in the Northwest have rhododendrons in bloom in April and May. One big splash of color is great, but what if your garden were to show some color for all twelve months? With some planning, some plant hunting and a little extra money you can have the joy of these wonderful flowers all year long. [Color refers to the flowers; size refers to the plant size.]

January is the month for the earliest bloomers. (A very cold winter will delay bloom.)

'Abegail' – pink, tall

'Harry Carter'* – pink, tall

'Lee's Scarlet' – red, medium

Nobleanum Album Group – white, tall

'Nobleanum Coccineum' – red, tall

'Nobleanum Venustum' – rose-pink, tall

R. dauricum – rosy purple or white, medium

R. mucronulatum – bright rosy pink, medium

February brings a little warmth or a little more snow. But these rhododendrons will bloom through it all. (In colder years or locales, some of these will bloom in March.)

'Babylon' – white/chocolate, tall

'Bodega Crystal Pink' – pink, medium

'Bo-peep' – lemon-yellow, medium

'Bric-à-brac' – pink/white, low

'Christmas Cheer' – pink, medium

'Conemaugh' – lavender-pink, tall

'Etta Burrows' – bright red, tall

'Goosander' – light yellow, low

'Helen Scott Richey' – pink, low

'Olive' – orchid-pink, medium

'Peter Faulk' – red, medium

'Pink Prelude' – pink, tall

'Pink Snowflakes' – pink/white, low

'Praecox' – rosy lilac, medium

'Promise of Spring' – rose, tall

'Red Majesty' – red, tall

'Quaver' – yellow, low

'Seta' – light/deep pink, tall

'Sausalito' – pink/red, tall

'Tessa' (and 'Tessa Bianco') – pink (white), medium

'Vernum' – pale pink, tall

'Wisp' – pink, medium

R. barbatum – red, medium

R. irroratum - cream or pink/spotted, tall

R. lanigerum – rosy purple, medium

R. moupinense – white/pink, low

R. pemakoense – pink, low

R. praevernum – white/rose, tall

R. strigillosum – blood red, tall

March brings us the first hints of spring. These plants get a jump on the crowd of rhododendrons in the next two months. This is but a sample of the many dozens of March-blooming varieties.

'Cilpinense' – white/pink, low

'Elya' – rose, medium

'Ginny Gee' – pink, low

'Lucy Lou' – white, low

PJM Group – lavender-pink, medium

'Rosa Mundi' – light pink, medium

'Shamrock' – yellow-green, low

'Small Gem'* – white/pink, low

'Small Wonder' – red, low

'Snow Lady' – white, low

'Unknown Warrior' – red, tall

R. calophytum – white with pink blotch, tall

R. ciliatum – white/pink, medium

R. leucaspis – white/pink, low

R. oreodoxa - soft pink, tall

R. racemosum – pink, medium

R. recurvoides – white/rose, low

R. rubiginosum – rose, tall

R. russatum – purple, medium

R. schlippenbachii – pink, medium

R. sutchuenense – lilac or rose, tall

R. principis – white or rose, tall

R. hodgsonii – rosy purple, tall

April brings hundreds more rhododendrons to bloom. Yellows and purples predominate but white, pinks and some reds can be found. A visit to your local nursery is in order. The Species Study Group of the Seattle Rhododendron Society has a show in late March or early April. There you will find many of these wonderful plants to view and to buy.

May is the peak of the blooming season. Hundreds of varieties are in bloom. The Seattle Rhododendron Society has its large annual show in May. This is the best place to view the common and the most unusual rhododendrons. View the show with care and some discrimination. Remember you don't have the room to plant them all. Take lots of notes and write down the names of your favorites. Visit the plant sale and members will help you find the ones you just have to have!

June is the start of summer, but in Seattle it's often cool and wet! Most of the June bloomers need light shade to be at their best.

'Autumn Gold' – salmon-apricot, tall

'Betty Arrington' – rosy pink, tall, fragrant

'Blanc-mange' – white, tall

'Daphnoides' – purple, medium

'Edward Dunn' – apricot-pink, tall

'Goldsworth Orange' – salmon, tall

'Gomer Waterer' – white/mauve pink, tall

'Kilimanjaro' – red, tall

'Lemon Marmalade'* – yellow, medium

'Leo' – red, tall

Lodauric Group – white/yellow, tall, fragrant

'Purple Lace' – purple, tall

'Trilby' – red, tall

'Whitney's Late Orange'* – orange, medium

R. cumberlandense

R. brachycarpum – creamy white, medium

R. decorum ssp. diaprepes – white/rose, tall, fragrant

R. fortunei ssp. discolor – white or pink, tall, fragrant

R. ferrugineum – rose or pink, low

R. hemsleyanum – white, tall

R. hirsutum – white or pink, low

R. maximum – white to rose, tall

R. occidentale – white to pink/yellow, tall

R. ungernii – pink-white, medium

July may be the middle of summer, but there are still some rhododendrons that will bloom protected by the shade of your trees. Some are the best hardy fragrant rhododendrons.

'Aladdin' – pink, tall, fragrant

Europa Group – rosy lilac, tall

'Good News' – crimson, medium

'Independence Day' – red, tall

'Pearce's American Beauty' – red, tall

'Polar Bear' – white, tall, fragrant

'Romany Chal' – red, tall

R. auriculatum – white, tall, fragrant

R. cumberlandense 'Camps Red' – red, medium

R. decorum ssp. diaprepes 'Gargantua' – white, tall, fragrant

R. facetum – crimson-red, tall

R. maximum 'Mount Mitchell' – red, tall

R. thayerianum – pink or white/pink, medium

R. viscosum – white or pink, tall, fragrant

August is the time for most of us to go on vacation, lie around and sip iced tea. Most of the rhododendrons in your garden are growing and setting buds for next year. These few plants may be hard to find but well worth the effort. Try the Rhododendron Species Foundation for most of the species in this list, and many other early and late bloomers not included.

'Midsummer' – rosy pink, tall

R. arborescens – white, tall, fragrant

R. nakaharae – brick red, low

R. prunifolium – red or orange, medium

R. serotinum – white/rose, tall

R. viscosum – white, tall

September and October
September and October and our weather begins to cool. Many rhododendrons have the habit of "second blooming" in these months. Stressful conditions may cause flowering in the fall. This is a partial list. 'Elizabeth' is one of the best and most floriferous "second bloomers."

'Bob's Blue' – electric blue, medium

'Bluebird' – blue, low-medium

'Cornubia' – red, tall

'Elizabeth' – red, low

'Ernie Dee' – purple, low

Yellow Hammer Group – yellow, medium

R. impeditum – purple, low

R. fastigiatum – blue-purple, low

R. prunifolium – red or orange, medium

R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum hybrids (many)

November and December
During mild November and December months, especially for those who live near Puget Sound, several rhododendrons will bloom regularly every year. Most may only have a few flowers. These plants may bloom into the month of January depending on the weather. This makes every year just a little bit different from the last.

'Lee's Scarlet' – red, medium

'Nobleanum Coccineum' – red, tall

'Nobleanum Venustum' – soft pink, tall

R. dauricum – rose-purple, medium

Notes: Flowering times may vary by three or more weeks depending on microclimate, planting location, locale and "unseasonable" temperatures. Many rhododendrons have beautiful foliage and make outstanding garden plants year-round, in bloom or not. Heights: low = 2' or less, medium = 3-4'; tall = 5' or more, at 10 years age.

*Name is not registered.