The rosemary chip rhododendron is a popular choice for the Pacific Northwest. Its oval leaves and richly colored flowers make it a perennial favorite among those in the know.
About the Rosemary Chip Rhododendron
Rosemary chip rhododendron, also known as Rhododendron orbiculare is a species that originated in China, like many of the original types of rhododendrons. It can still be found there on the rocky slopes of forest land in Guangxi and Sichuan provinces.
In the United States, it is commonly found in the northwest, and reports state that it has grown there for at least the past 50 years.
The plant has oval or orbicular leaves (circular or disk shaped) that are usually longer than they are wide and measure about two to four inches long. It is an evergreen plant that usually grows to about three feet tall within ten years of planting. The plant sometimes grows more like a tree than a shrub.
The leaves are typically light to medium green with a purplish cast and purple stalks on the leaves, also known as petioles.
The flowers are rose colored to rich pink and usually bloom in late April in Oregon-it is considered an early-midseason to midseason bloomer. The flowers come in clusters of seven to ten and are delicately bell-shaped.
These rhododendrons are hardy to 0 to -5 Fahrenheit, and usually will not survive in colder climates.
Caring for Rhododendrons
Like other rhododendrons, the rosemary chip rhododendron will do better if it is planted in a good location, which for rhododendrons means shade. Places that are hot, dry, windy or extremely sunny aren't good choices for these plants.
Rhododendrons do like some filtered sunlight, however, and will become leggy and eventually die if grown in deep shade. Just remember to try to plant them in a place that is protected from the harsh mid-day sun.
The best spot for a rhododendron will also be one that has rich soil full of organic material that is well-drained and acidic (5 to 5.5 pH). It is relatively easy to amend your soil to make it hospitable to rhododendrons.
Add compost and other organic matter before planting, and add sphagnum peat moss or pine needles if needed to make the soil more acidic. Mulching your rhododendrons after planting is another good tip for success, because these shrubs like to be slightly moist all the time. Mulch will help keep moisture in the soil. Rhododendrons like humidity as well, which is why they do so well in places like the Pacific Northwest.
Rhododendrons like a lot of space to grow in. While the rosemary chip is not a huge rhododendron, you should still leave enough space between plants so that they can grow together in the years to come. If you plant them too closely they will be unhappy and overcrowded as they get bigger.
One good thing about rhododendrons that makes them so popular is that they don't require a whole lot of maintenance. You can snip spent flowers off when they plant is done blooming, and you can also prune at this time if needed to remove dead branches or shape the shrub. Right after blooming is the best time to trim your rhododendron because the plants bloom on that new growth that will be happening through the summer months. If you wait too late to prune, you could be cutting off next year's blooms.
Rhododendrons tend to be pretty hardy and aren't that susceptible to pests or diseases, especially when planted properly and kept well watered. If you have good-quality soil, you might not even need to fertilize.
If you live in a part of the United States that isn't as well suited to rhododendrons (such as the south or Midwest) you might need to take some extra care to protect your plants from wind, cold temperatures or whatever extremes of weather are predominant in your neighborhood.
Rhododendrons are lovely plants that are pretty easy to care for and reward you with a wonderful spring flower show right in your own yard.