Finding that perfect plant that brings vibrancy and color to your garden is very satisfying but usually involves a lot of looking and research. Sizeable plants are especially tricky as the height and breadth have to be considered when choosing that perfect spot. Rhododendrons have long been used to bring drama into our landscape and they can be either very small or extraordinarily large. This variety gives a good shrub-like height and structure without trying to spread or seed elsewhere in your garden, and it won’t obscure the sunlight with a high dense body of leaves. Instead, it will fatten itself outwards, growing into a large mound of lovely deep green foliage that in mid-spring every year will become smothered in wonderfully dramatic red flowers that attract bees and butterflies to your property. There is much drama added to your green spaces when utilizing this cross breed but very little work needed to maintain it. When you plant one of these you’ll find it a great trade off of doing very little to shape or maintain, but being the recipient of a great reddish pink cloud of blooms come mid spring that will attract a wide variety of visiting wildlife.
The rhododendron name encompasses a huge range of different plants, and there are now many cross breeds which accentuate particular features. They are native to a good many areas including North America, Russia, Asia, Australia and the Solomon Islands to name but a few, and they are generally considered to be Alpine native plants. Because of this wide range they are suited to many varied environments. Rhododendron Nova Zembla is possibly the hardiest of all the hybrids available and has few things that are considered a must for successful growth.
When choosing a position for your Nova Zembla be sure to take into account the plant’s desire for full sun as, although these will tolerate partial shade, they will give the best flower performance with plenty of sun and warmth. It is important that the soil is well drained as although they like to moist, they do not like to be left in standing water or boggy patches as this can cause various rots. Winter winds can be unkind too, so it is worth finding a spot that will offer some shelter once the temperature drops and the breeze cools – although this is not always necessary, as the variety really is considerably hardier than your average rhododendron.
Well –drained soil is a must and when you are planting your new addition out into your chosen spot, be sure to bear in mind that the roots of this plant sit just under the soil and do not want a hole digging that is deeper than the depth of the pot you bought it in. Apply an acid rich mulch and plenty of water to introduce it to its new home. It will perform to its best in slightly acidic to neutral soil, so if you have alkaline soil then it is always worth looking at potted versions that can grace seating areas and patios. Planting in alkaline soil can result in a yellowing of the leaves and could eventually kill the plant without remedial action.
Be sure to keep your plant moist and preferably do this with rain water as the many chemicals in tap water can upset rhododendrons, although as already mentioned this hybrid is vastly more forgiving than many others and will tolerate most of what you throw at it. Thanks to its hardiness it does not suffer especially from diseases or pests but it is wise to ensure that your rhododendron has plenty of room for air as this keeps the chances mildew to a minimum, especially on a plant as dense as this one. After bloom an acid rich fertilizer can be added, and in order to help keep it cool in the height of summer a layer of mulch can be laid at the base of the plant; this will also assist with stopping the top soil, beneath which the roots sit, from drying out too much. Pruning should be undertaken after the flowers have dropped as this is when next year’s buds form; if pruning take places after this has happened then you will be reducing the show you’re looking forward to in spring.
When you have catered to the few needs of this particular hybrid then this fast growing plant will become a lovely compact mound of evergreen foliage that every year will explode with huge numbers of richly colored blooms, and it should continue doing this for around 40 years. Bees and butterflies will thank you for this bright and bold addition to your landscape whether the local climate is hot or cold. What a fabulous member of the rhododendron family.