Planting Rhododendron – Florence Parks

I’ve always thought that in order to have a garden with year round interest some plants need to be planted in every season. The plants you see in the nurseries are typically presented in their prime season (unless you are talking vegetables in which case they could be out several weeks before you should plant them!) and if you plant in each season they will come back during that season. Of course that could just be my excuse to buy plants all the time. Today I brought home two small rhododendrons named ‘Florence Parks’ (Rhododendron x ‘Florence Parks‘)By planting rhododendrons I added both evergreen color and spring blooms to my side garden.

'Florence Parks' Rhododendron
‘Florence Parks’ Rhododendron

Where to Plant the Rhododendrons?

I selected a place in the side garden to plant the two rhododendrons under the shade of a a river birch tree. The river birch (Betula nigra) is thriving in its current location as it gets a steady amount of moisture without getting too wet. Several years ago I planted beauty berry bushes around the birch tree but those have suffered because of too much shade. The branches of the beautyberry are dying back and the berry production is almost to nothing now. That makes it the perfect location to plant these rhododendrons.

‘Florence Parks’ Rhododendron

‘Florence Parks’ is said to be one of the most hardy of the purple blooming rhododendrons. You can get an idea of the flower color from the plant tag photo. When planting rhododendrons choose a site that has part shade. The tag says full sun but here in the south I am erring on the side of caution and have planted them where more shade is probably a good idea. ‘Florence Parks’ rhododendron is suited for hardiness zones 4-8 (I’m in zone 7). It grows around 5′ to 6′. The ideal soil for a rhododendron would be on the acidic side in a compost rich soil.

The Soil for Rhododendrons

The soil in that garden bed is fairly rich due to several years of leaves breaking down over the bed from a combination of birch trees, red buds, oak leaf hydrangeas, and crape myrtles. I dug holes slightly shorter than the pot so that when I planted the shrubs the crown of the plant would remain just a little higher than the soil surface. Crown rot can often be a problem in shady areas and by keep the crown higher than the soil level you encourage better drainage. After planting I tucked in leaves around each plant to use as a mulch. I raked the garden pathway the other day and simply pushed all the leaves into the garden bed. Fall leaves make an excellent garden mulch! (AND IT’S FREE!)

Rhododendrons under a river birch
The “R” represents where each Rhododendron was planted.

The two rhododendrons I planted had quite a few bloom buds already on them so I’m anticipating a good show in the spring. After blooming I’ll trim them a little and encourage them to bush out more. Of course I’ll attempt some cuttings from the tip cuttings. Because why wouldn’t you?

Do you have rhododendrons in your garden? What do you like most about them?