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Rhododendrons With Interesting Foliage


By AndrewR


One of the criticisms levelled at rhododendrons is their boring foliage. For maybe three weeks when in flower these shrubs are spectacular but then you are left with those dull, green leaves for the rest of the year. But there are a few where the foliage can give some interest. For example, there is a form of the ubiquitous purple-flowered rhododendron ponticum with variegated foliage (sometimes sold as R. ‘Silver Edge’).
However there are smaller forms of the family that would fit into a modern garden.

R. bureavii reaches 1.5 to two metres with white to pale pink flowers. This is followed by new leaves with a distinctly brown colouring. The undersides of both the new and older leaves also have a rich rusty-red indumentum.

If you don’t like brown, how about blue? R. campanulatum subsp aeruginosum (a bit of a mouthful, but make sure you get the subspecies to get the leaf colour) is smaller at about one metre and flowers earlier, usually in April. Blooms may be white, mauve or purple followed by glaucous metallic-blue young growth. Again, there is a good, pale indumentum under the leaves. In good forms, the blue colouring persists all year. Easy to grow in acid soils but this one does insist on good drainage.

Similar in size and flowering time is R. pachysanthum, the new leaves having a silvery colouring which lasts all summer. It has been described by one rhodo expert as “a great all round plant, one of the finest of all species”.

But if these are too subtle for you, you need R. ‘Ever Red’ – again April-flowering but under one metre in height. The deep purple foliage lasts all year, setting off the red flowers.

All these rhododendrons (and many others) are available from Glendoick Nursery in Scotland who have a comprehensive website and offer a good mail order service.

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Interesting blog - love the Ever Red leaves, very striking.

16 Jun, 2011


Lovely, i like them all but if i had to pick one only i think i would go for the Pachysanthum. What colour are the flowers on that one Andrew? :^)

16 Jun, 2011


My choice would be the Ever Red, but having said that I can`t say I`m a big fan of Rhodies or Azalias the`re too showy for me.

16 Jun, 2011


The beautiful foliage of rhodoendrons is not appreciated nearly as much as it deserves, as Andrew says. Many of the garden center rhodos that people buy are hybrids with flashy flowers but basic dark green leaves. At the moment many of the ones in our garden are producing lovely new foliage and I particularly like the ones with the brown felting, indumentum, on the underside of the leaves.

16 Jun, 2011


Daylily - they're white to pale pink with yellow or red spots

16 Jun, 2011


interesting i like the ever red too

16 Jun, 2011


Yes! I love that one too, Cristina, it's unusual!

16 Jun, 2011


I like the blue one :-)

16 Jun, 2011


I suppose its all in the eye of the beholder. My favourite place to play was in the 'rhodies' in the walled garden of the 'old house' in the middle of the golf course (strictly forbidden, of course!)

Perhaps, as a consequence, I love the formation and colour of the leaves and the branches :)

17 Jun, 2011


Thanks Andrew :^)

17 Jun, 2011


Thanks for an interesting blog Andrew; I have to confess I am not a fan of Rhodo's I have spent too much time cursing R.ponticum! although I have seen some fine specimens of R. falconeri in Cornish gardens that I liked.

18 Jun, 2011


Wow! Thanks for all the research and the great photos. We have great pine woods near us in which a large variety of rhododendrons have been planted, I'll have to take a close look next time and see if I can identify any from your references. See:

27 Jun, 2011


Love the blue and the red, thanks for a cool little article, saw R. 'Temple Belle' last april at Wisley, lovely small round leaves and pink pendant flowers.

10 Jul, 2011

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