Honey Butter RhododendronRhododendron hybrid ‘Honey Butter'
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Rhododendron hybrid ‘Honey Butter'
Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
The Honey Butter Rhododendron is a beautiful evergreen shrub with large, dark-green leathery leaves that blooms in late spring. It grows into a dome 3 feet tall and wide, eventually doubling that size as it matures. Every branch ends in a very large cluster of bell-shaped ruffled blossoms which are pale pink, with darker edges, dark-pink veins and a butter-yellow center. A bush in bloom will be a wonderful highlight of your spring garden, and the attractive foliage makes it valuable all year round.
Partial shade, or light full shade, is best for the Honey Butter Rhododendron, which is fully hardy in zone 7, and hardy with winter-protection in warmer parts of zone 6. It needs rich, moist, well-drained acidic soil, with a pH of 6.0 or less. If you don’t have suitable soil, grow it in a planter or pot, using soil and fertilizer for acid-loving plants.
“Drop-dead gorgeous!” was our first reaction when we first saw the beautiful Honey Butter Rhododendron in bloom. This plant really is a head-turner, and definitely attracts attention wherever it is grown. No wonder. Every stem on this rounded bush is topped in spring with an enormous cluster of many bell-shaped blossoms, each one a frilly rhapsody of soft pink with darker pink edges and a delicate buttery yellow heart. So prolific are the blooms that the leathery leaves are almost hidden from sight, and this bush truly is a miracle of the plant world. If you only grow one rhododendron in your garden, then make it this one. Even better, make it the beginning of a stunning collection of these beautiful shade-tolerant shrubs, and mix them with winter-blooming camellias and Encore azaleas for a spectacular garden with something in bloom year round. If you don’t have the right soil for rhododendrons, don’t worry, because they grow happily for years in pots, where they can be moved around to maximize their display. There is one thing you must do, however you choose to do it, and that is to have the wonderful Honey Butter Rhododendron in your garden, because without its beauty your spring days will be so much poorer.
The Honey Butter Rhododendron is a rounded evergreen shrub that grows to be 3 feet tall and wide within 10 years. It will continue to grow larger and eventually approach 6 feet tall and wide. The leaves are slender ovals 5½ inches long, with a smooth matt surface and a thick, leathery texture. Mature bushes have thick branches visible at the base, covered with a peeling, mid-gray bark, giving a rugged look.
In fall you will see the large flower buds developed at the ends of each branch, full of promise for the spring. In April and May these open into very large trusses of many flowers, forming a beautiful dome of amazing colors, smothering the leaves almost completely. Each bloom is 3 inches across, shaped like an open bell with a narrow base. The edges of the petals are wavy and ruffled, adding richness to the display. Inside each flower is a graceful graduation of color, from a deep pink edge to a light pink interior, ending with a butter yellow throat deep inside the bloom. The outside of the petals is pale pink, with darker pink veins. Taken together these effects create a wonderful rich and sophisticated bloom that is simply gorgeous.
Grow this beautiful shrub around your home, among the foundation planting. Plant it beside a path, or where the direction of a walkway changes. Plant it in beds among other flowering shrubs, perhaps for early display among hydrangeas or other later-blooming plants. Create a woodland garden with other acid-loving plants for a wonderful walk beneath the trees, or grow it in planters and pots to place anywhere.
The Honey Butter Rhododendron is hardy in mild and warm zones, from zone 7 to zone 9. It can also be grown in warm parts of zone 6, in a sheltered spot, with some winter protection.
Grow the Honey Butter Rhododendron in areas with morning sun and afternoon shade, or in light full shade, such as on the north side of a building, or in the dappled shade beneath large deciduous trees. It should be grown in rich soil that is well-drained but generally moist, and the soil should be acidic. The pH value of the soil should be between 4.5 and 6.0, although 6.5 is possible with the use of iron supplements developed for acid-loving plants. Enrich the planting area with lime-free composts or other organic materials, including peat moss. If you don’t have suitable soil it is difficult to create and maintain acid soil in your garden for more than one season. A much easier and better solution is to grow this plant in a pot or planter box, using potting soil and fertilizer for acid-loving plants. Rhododendrons have fibrous root systems, and they will thrive in pots for many years. The pot should have a drainage hole, and water it whenever the top ½ inch becomes dry.
Once the soil and light is suitable, growing this plant is easy. It is generally pest and disease free, and ignored by deer. The only care needed is to remove the flower heads as soon as the petals fall. Do this by bending the stem and snapping it at a point just above the top leaf. You can usually see small buds among those top leaves – break or cut the flower stem just above those buds. This will stop your plant wasting energy making seeds, keep it looking more attractive, and encourage it to make more flower buds for the next spring.
Most wild rhododendrons are found in China, India and the Himalayan mountains, although North America has its species too. There are about 1,000 species, which have been used by breeders for the last 150 years, and there are countless registered hybrid varieties of all kinds. Jim Barlup began life as a professional photographer, even photographing the Beach Boys for their debut album. He became increasingly drawn to rhododendrons through photographing them, and dreamed all his life of creating the perfect orange variety. He bred 250 different registered varieties during his career as a breeder, including one called ‘Honey Butter’, which he created by crossing together a variety called ‘Nancy Evans’, which has orange buds and yellow flowers, with ’Lem’s Cameo’ a plant with pink flowers. It isn’t orange, but it is amazingly beautiful.
The Honey Butter Rhododendron is one of the most beautiful flowers created, and it’s the work of a ‘guru of rhododendrons’ so it is top-quality. Find a place for it in your garden and enjoy that beauty, but order right away, as plants of this caliber don’t stay in our stock for very long.