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Best uses

A great evergreen shrub for shady borders and woodland plantings. Looks good in a container or used as informal hedging.

Physical characteristics

A rounded, evergreen shrub growing to around 1.5m tall and 1.5m wide.

Flowers and foliage

Leaves are lance-shaped, large, leathery and dark green. Trusses of around 12 funnel-shaped flowers are produced in spring. Flowers are bright pink with a pale pink throat.

Preferred site

Performs best in partial shade with rich, moist, acidic but well-drained soil.

Preparation for planting

Always choose healthy, well-grown, plants and plant after autumn rains, when the soil is moist and warm allows shrubs to establish a good root system well before summer. Planting is often improved on clay soils by adding extra topsoil and forming raised beds. Incorporate coarse sand, bark, peat, compost or other organic material to improve soil structure. Before planting, ensure the root ball is saturated and remove the planter bag or pot with minimal root disturbance. Trim any broken roots or branches and plant at the same level as in the container. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball to plant in. Long term slow-release fertilisers may be added at this stage. As soil is placed in the prepared hole, tread firmly to bring soil in close contact with the root-ball. Unless the soil is wet, water thoroughly making sure that moisture penetrates to the depth of the root-ball.

Maintenance tips

Apply an organic mulch annually to help suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Feed annually in spring with a balanced fertiliser such as blood and bone at a handful per square metre in spring as new growth begins. Remove spent flower heads by carefully snapping them off just below the flower truss but above the leaves. This is easy to do and will tidy up your plant for the rest of the season. Pruning of rhododendrons is not often required except when they get especially large or start encroaching on walkways. Some people like to remove lower branches on large plants to allow planting underneath, but remember that the higher you take off branches, the fewer flowers you will see at eye level as they do look better left alone. Propagation of plants can be done but is usually very slow. This can be achieved by layering branches close to the ground.

Pests and diseases

Thrips can attack leaves in humid conditions. Late frosts and a lot of rain can ruin flowers as they come out.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Spring Blossom Valley