A Native Rhododendron

– Posted in: Native/Invasive

A few weeks ago, my husband brought to my attention a lone specimen of a pink flowering shrub growing alongside the road a few miles from our house. It looked pretty and smelled nice, and my curiosity was piqued. A quick perusal of Wildflowers of New York in Color (William K. Chapman [Editor], et al) convinced me it was Rhododendron prinophyllum, commonly known as Early Azalea, Roseshell Azalea, or Election Azalea. This link gave the most information on it. It’s hardy to Zone 3 and likes to grow in moist, well-drained soil. I guess that means a slope that gets a lot of water flowing down it without puddling.

I was waiting until a copy of Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines: A Guide to Using, Growing, and Propagating North American Woody Plants by William Cullina became available from our library, so I could give you more information about growing it. But, to my surprise, Cullina had no information on it, so either it is difficult to grow (doubtful; it’s sold commercially) or it is too rare for him to mention. In New York state it’s considered “exploitably vulnerable,” whatever that means. A search at Google catalogs turned up three sources, and I bet there are other rhododendron growers who sell it as well. I want to plant some of this on our property, but I’ll take my sweet time picking out the site. And I’ll probably have to figure out how to protect it from the deer till it gets established. One thing Cullina said about native rhodos in general is that they like to sow their seeds in moss, so wherever moss is growing is a good place to grow rhodos.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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