13 Types of Rhododendrons (Photos & Details)

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by Max - last update on January 12, 2020, 6:04 pm
Types of Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons are a highly popular plant, thanks to their ability to bloom abundantly with a large array of different flowers. With near 1,000 species available, Rhododendrons offer a wide variety of choices, with something to suit almost any climate. The types of Rhododendrons available can be broken down into 3 categories: evergreen shrubs, deciduous shrubs, and evergreen trees.

Evergreen Rhododendron Shrubs

Rhododendron evergreen shrubs maintain year-round interest as they don’t lose their leaves. They are typically below 10 feet in height, are low-maintenance, and are suitable for growing in a range of different hardiness zones.

Some of the most popular evergreen Rhododendron shrubs include the following.

1. Rhododendron Nova Zembla

Rhododendron Nova Zembla

Mature Size: Up to 8 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Light: Partial sun

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Moist, well-draining

Flower Color: Red

Special Features: Prolific bloomer

This plant is renowned for its red flowers that bloom prolifically, smothering the shrub with large clusters of vibrant blossoms from the middle of spring. This low-maintenance plant grows easily, provided it is positioned in a partial sun spot and planted in a well-draining soil that is kept moist.

It is able to grow wider than it is tall, making it suitable for use as screening or in hedging. It is suitable for use in a wide range of climates, being tolerant of both heat and cold winters.


2. Rhododendron Saffron Queen

Rhododendron Saffron Queen

Mature Size: Up to 6 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining and moist

Flower Color: Yellow

Special Features: Attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds

This shrub is suitable only for growing in temperate climates, as it cannot tolerate temperatures lower than 20 ºF. It produces trumpet-shaped flowers in a joyous yellow color, and as it is able to tolerate a partial shaded position, these blooms would be ideal for brightening up a dark corner of the garden.

The foliage of the plant is green and glossy, providing an elegant background for the flowers. It is low-maintenance and grows easily, though deadheading spent flowers will help to increase flower production.

3. Rhododendron April Rose

Mature Size: 3-4 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Moist and well-draining

Flower Color: Purple

Special Features: Reliable early bloomer

This plant is a semi-dwarf shrub that can grow up to 4 feet tall, with a similar-sized spread. It is cold hardy and can withstand temperatures as low as -25 ºF, making it popular in cooler climates that experience harsh winters.

The main appeal of this plant is its 2-inch-wide funnel-like flowers that bloom in early spring in vivid purple. It has attractive green, ovate foliage that transforms to red-yellow in the fall. This plant has received the award for Rhododendron of the Year from the American Rhododendron Society.


4. Rhododendron PJM Elite

Rhododendron PJM Elite

Credit to David J. Stang

Mature Size: Up to 6 feet tall

Hardiness Zone:4-8

Light: Partial sun

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Moist and well-draining

Flower Color: Red-purple

Special Features: Cold hardy

This medium to large-sized shrub is popular across North America thanks to its ability to withstand low temperatures, its vigorous growth habit, and its attractive flowers that bloom in great abundance in the middle of spring.

This Rhododendron is a hybrid between two other Rhododendrons that are renowned for their hardiness and impressive growth habit. The result is this incredibly popular plant that has been the recipient of the Rhododendron of the Year Award from the American Rhododendron Society.

The blooms of this shrub are a light purple with hints of red. The foliage is dark green through summer, turning to red-purple later in the year. It grows best in partial sun locations, protected from the wind.


5. Rhododendron Windsong

Mature Size: Up to 5 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 7-9

Light: Part sun, part shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Rich, well-draining

Flower Color: Yellow

Special Features: Contrasting flowers

This shrub grows slowly, taking around a decade to reach its full height of between 4 and 5 feet. It produces funnel-shaped flowers in a yellow-green shade, with red accents. The foliage of this plant is also attractive, with a glossy finish in an olive-green color.

Deciduous Rhododendron Shrubs

Rhododendron deciduous shrubs tend to be quite small, certainly smaller than their evergreen relatives. They shed their leaves at the end of fall and therefore tend to lack interest throughout the winter. However, deciduous shrubs have plenty to offer, with some benefitting from foliage that changes color in the fall.

Some of the best deciduous Rhododendron shrubs include the following.

6. Rhododendron Daviesii

Rhododendron Daviesii


Origin: Mexico, Honduras

Mature Size: Up to 6 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: Orange and yellow

Special Features: Fragrant blooms

This elegant shrub produces flared flowers in a creamy yellow color that turns bright orange towards the petal tips. The flowers are highly fragrant and are set against a background of blue-green ovate leaves that come to a pointed end.

This hardy shrub has a compact upright habit that works well in hedging, beds, borders, and in containers. It has been the recipient of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.


7. Rhododendron Gibraltar

Rhododendron Gibraltar

Mature Size: Up to 5 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Moist, well-draining

Flower Color: Orange-red

Special Features: Fragrant, unusual blooms

This Rhododendron blooms in mid or late spring with a plentiful display of flared trumpet-shape flowers, with elegant frilled edges. These flowers are full of character and set the garden ablaze with their vibrant orange-red coloring.

This plant is the recipient of several awards, including the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society and the Rhododendron of the Year Award from the American Rhododendron Society.

It has an open growth habit that results in a shrub as wide as it is tall. This plant is very hardy and works well in climates that experience freezing winters. It is also particularly resistant to mildew.


8. Rhododendron Homebush

Rhododendron Homebush

Mature Size: Up to 6 feet

Hardiness Zone: 6-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Moist and well-draining

Flower Color: Pink

Special Features: Showy flowers

This showy shrub produces clusters of 14 to 16 blooms at the end of a long, extended stem, forming perfectly spherical trusses that give the impression of one large and full flower. The blooms are a vivid mid-pink shade and have protruding stamens stretching out from the flowers.

The foliage of the plant is a medium bright green color and provides a classic look when set against the flowers. Blooming occurs towards the end of spring, but the plant also has interest during other seasons, thanks to its attractive fall foliage. The plant has received several awards and attracts a range of pollinators.


9. Rhododendron Windbeam

Mature Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Moist, well-draining

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Showy flowers

This shrub blooms in the middle of spring, with 8 flowers clustered together at the tip of a branch to form a sphere shape. The flowers start out white and gradually fade to pale pink. The plant blooms reliably and in great abundance, providing a show-stopping display in the garden. Its foliage also has merit, with small olive-green leaves that develop to a bronze color later in the year.

This plant is prized for its ability to withstand cold temperatures, as well as heat, making it suitable for use in a wide range of climates. Its small size makes it ideal in borders, beds, containers, and small gardens. It also works well when used as a low hedge.


10. Rhododendron Rosy Lights

Rhododendron Rosy Lights

Mature Size: Up to 6 feet

Hardiness Zone: 3-7

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Rich, well-draining

Flower Color: Pink

Special Features: Exceptionally cold hardy

This shrub is a hybrid that was developed in 1984 by the University of Minnesota, which bred the plant to have buds that are able to withstand Minnesota winters, with temperatures as low as -45 ºF.

The plant blooms from late spring to early summer, before the leaves have appeared, making for an unusual looking plant that is all stems and flowers with no foliage. The flowers grow in groups of 8, that form dome-shaped trusses at the end of the stems. Blooms are bright pink and dotted with splashes of orange.

The foliage of the plant is olive green in a long and slender shape and transforms to deep red during fall. This shrub thrives in a position of partial sun, ideally with shade in the afternoon to protect it from strong rays. If the plant is positioned in full sun, it can experience a shorter blooming period and bleached foliage. This plant has also been awarded the title of Rhododendron of the Year (University of Minnesota).


11. Rhododendron Golden Lights

Mature Size: Up to 6 feet

Hardiness Zone: 3-7

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: Orange

Special Features: Exceptionally cold hardy

This is another plant that was bred by the University of Minnesota to withstand Minnesota winters. Its buds are able to tolerate temperatures as low as -35 ºF, making the plant incredibly winter hardy and perfect for growing in some of the coldest areas in North America.

The flowers start out as red-orange buds that open out in early summer to reveal wide funnel-shaped orange blooms with frilled edges. Each flower is heavily fragrant and measures around 2 inches across, growing in clusters of 10. This results in an unusually large truss of flowers, making an incredible visual impact. The flowers bloom before the foliage unfurls, resulting in a very striking statement.

When foliage does appear, it is narrow and olive-green. It is especially resistant to mildew and grows best in partial shade or filtered bright light. The shrub itself has a compact habit and grows to form attractive mounds, usually spreading as wide as it is tall. It works well when planted in borders or as a flowering hedge.

Evergreen Rhododendron Trees

Rhododendrons that are typically grown as trees can also take the form of exceptionally large shrubs. Their height makes them more suited for growth as trees, and are trained as such.

Some examples of evergreen Rhododendron trees include the following.

12. Rhododendron calophytum

Rhododendron calophytum

Credit to brewbooks

Mature Size: Up to 10 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 6-9

Light: Partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining, moist

Flower Color: Pink

Special Features: Large foliage

This flowering tree is native to China, where it can reach heights of up to 40 feet tall. However when cultivated, it rarely grows in excess of 10 feet. It is fairly slow growing, taking between 10 and 20 years to reach its full height.

It blooms in spring with trusses of trumpet-shaped flowers that are pale creamy-pink. The foliage of this tree is impressive, with leathery green long narrow leaves that can measure up to 12 inches in length.

It is tolerant of temperatures as low as 5 °F and should be grown in a partially shaded position with shelter from strong winds. This Rhododendron has earned the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society (Royal Horticultural Society).


13. Rhododendron rubiginosum

Rhododendron rubiginosum

Mature Size: Up to 20 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 7-9

Light: Partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: Pink-purple

Special Features: Slow growing

Native to China, this large evergreen shrub can be trained to grow into a tree. It blooms in the middle of the season with trumpet-shaped flowers that range in color from pale lavender to pale pink. The flowers are freckled with purple or dark red spots and appear in trusses of between 4 and 8 blooms. The narrow leaves of the tree are dark green and typically measure 4 inches in length.

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