The enormous rhododendron family, which includes both rhododendrons
and azaleas, contains many dwarf plants suitable for rock gardens,
their specific use depends on their soil and light preferences
and their habits of growth--compact, spreading or trailing. All
the species and varieties listed here are evergreen and notable
either for their foliage or flowers, sometimes for both. Most
have oval leaves, dull or shiny; their flowers, bell-shaped or
trumpet-shaped, usually bloom in clusters from early spring to
R. fastigiatum – 2', -15F. It is a dwarf lepidote rhododendron, has shiny blue-gray leaves, 1/2 inch long, and bell-shaped lavender-rose flowers 1 inch wide. It is an open, upright plant, becoming 3 feet tall with a spread of 12 to 24 inches.
R. impeditum – 1', -5F. It is an excellent dwarf with tight compact habit, silver-gray foliage, and bright blue-purple flowers.
R. indicum – 1', 0F. They are prostrate plants that form low mounds up to 4 feet across; they are useful as ground covers. Both have dull, hairy leaves, 2 inches long. The salmon-pink double flowers of 'Balsam' resemble roses, while those of 'Flame Creeper' are an intense scarlet.
R. keiskei 'Dwarf' (dwarf Keiskei rhododendron) – 2', -10F. It is a dwarf lepidote rhododendron, bears pale yellow 2-inch bell-shaped flowers and has olive-green 2-inch leaves that turn wine red in winter. It is a spreading plant, growing 2 1/2 feet tall and 4 feet wide. [return to Index]
More Dwarf Rhododendron Species
R. kiusianum (dwarf azalea) – 3', +5F. It blooms while still young, bearing white, pink, rose or purple flowers 1 to 1 1/2 inches across. The shiny 1-inch leaves sometimes turn red in winter. This open, twiggy plant grows slowly to 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
R. nakaharai (dwarf azalea) – 1', -5F. It forms a low dense mound that seems to grow flatter as it matures, since its ultimate height is 6 to 9 inches, while its spread is 12 to 15 inches. The small, shiny leaves, 2 inches long, are hairy on the undersides. The 3-inch pink, salmon or red flowers are saucer shaped and, unlike most azaleas, open in midsummer.
R. pemakoense – 1', 0F. It is heavy flowering with orchid pink flowers on a cute plant. It is easily grown and free flowering.
R. racemosum 'Dwarf' (dwarf Mayflower rhododendron) – 2', -10F. It is a spreading semi-prostrate plant 2 feet high and up to 5 feet wide, with many-branched wiry stems. The 3/4-inch white or pink flowers begin to appear while the plant is still quite young. The 2-inch leaves are smooth on the top, gray and scaly on the underside. [return to Index]
Carmen — 1’, -5F, EM. Whether in flower or not, this muffin of emerald green round leaves goes home with a lot of gardeners. ‘Carmen’ buds as a young plant. Its flowers are dark red.
Dora Amateis –– 3', -15F. IT grows 3 to 4 feet tall and has 3-inch white flowers speckled with green; its leaves are dark green and in full sun have a bronze sheen.
Egret – 1', -5F. It grows to about 1 foot tall in 10 years. Each terminal is has miniature white clusters forming a snowy white ball.
Moerheim – 1', -10F. It is a low, dense shrub, growing eventually to 3 feet high and 3 feet wide; it has 1-inch violet-to-purple flowers, and 2-inch shiny green leaves that turn maroon in the winter. [return to Index]
More Dwarf Hybrid Rhododendrons
Princess Anne – 1', -5F. It grows to about 1 foot tall in 10 years. Yellow flower with slight greenish cast. Foliage turns shades of bronze.
Ptarmigan – 1', -5F. It grows to about 1 foot tall in 10 years. Showy, pure white, small flowers, develops naturally into a finely textured mound.
Purple Gem – 2', -25F. It forms a dense mound and grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall; this variety has 2-inch lavender-to-purple flowers and 2-inch blue-green leaves that turn rust-colored as they age.
Tow Head – 1', -15F. It grows to about 1 foot tall in 10 years. Brilliant greenish yellow flowers with orange-yellow spotting. Will grow in width. [return to Index]
In cold climates, most do better on the north side of a building or on a northwest slope. All need some sun for best flowering but in general require partial shade. They thrive in a moist, well-drained, humus-filled soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.0, enriched with peat moss or leaf mold. Plant dwarf rhododendrons and azaleas in spring or, in areas that have mild winters, in the fall. Prepare the soil by thoroughly mixing equal parts of loam, coarse sand and ground oak leaves or redwood. Plant the root ball slightly higher than it was growing at the nursery.
To keep the soil cool and moist, mulch it with a 2-inch layer of wood chips, ground bark, pine needles or coarse peat moss. Fertilize plants in the early spring with a light sprinkling of cottonseed meal or a fertilizer specially formulated for acid-loving plants. Pruning is seldom needed except for removal of faded flowers, but if it is, branches may be trimmed immediately after flowering. Rhododendrons may be harmed in winter by drying winds and bright sun; protect their shallow roots with a mulch of oak leaves or pine needles and their foliage with a loose blanket of evergreen boughs or specially built screens.
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. [Article in Kutztown Patriot about American Rhododendron Society Award.]
Where every purchase benefits the American Rhododendron Society