Yaku Prince RhododendronRhododendron hybrid 'Yaku Prince'
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Rhododendron hybrid 'Yaku Prince'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Yaku Prince Rhododendron grows into a mounded evergreen shrub, just 1½ feet tall and 3 feet wide after 10 years, ultimately growing to 3 feet tall. The spectacular blooms are carried in large bunches at the ends of every stem, and they are bright red in bud, opening to a beautiful pink with soft purple overtones, wavy edges and red spots inside. Its large leaves are covered in silver hairs when they are new, and they have a unique ‘suede’ underside that is orange-yellow, adding interest. It is the perfect size for edging beds or lining a path, or for a spot in a tiny Japanese courtyard.
The Yaku Prince Rhododendron is notable for being one of the most winter-hardy varieties available. It will grow and bloom even in zone 4, and it is also reliable and vigorous in all but the hottest zones. Grow it in full sun or with afternoon shade, or in the light dappled shade beneath trees. It grows best in rich, moist, well-drained soil that is acidic, with a pH reading less than 6.5. If you have alkaline soil, grow it in a pot or planter, in potting soil for acid-loving plants. Water regularly as this plant is not drought resistant. It is normally pest and disease free when grown in suitable conditions.
It would be hard to find a gardener anywhere who didn’t love rhododendrons. No other shrubs have such a powerful and majestic presence, in bloom or out of it. In colder zones these plants are especially coveted, and the rare varieties that are especially cold resistant are always highly prized. It would be difficult to find a more magnificent cold-hardy rhododendron than the Yaku Prince Rhododendron, a top choice for cold zones. This plant truly does have a royal presence, bringing regal beauty to your garden with its huge balls of red buds that open to a delicious pink, and its unique foliage with ‘suede’ undersides. If you garden in colder zones it is a splendid choice, and in milder areas it is also outstanding, wherever you want a smaller evergreen shrub, just a few feet tall, that will blow you away with its spring glory.
The Yaku Prince Rhododendron grows into a low spreading shrub, reaching 1½ feet tall and 3 feet wide in 10 years, maturing to perhaps 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide in time. It is perfect for smaller gardens, and for growing in pots, or to line a pathway through a wooded area. The leaves are unusually large for a smaller bush, creating a very striking effect. When the new shoots emerge in early summer they are covered in shiny silvery hairs, which disappear as the leaves expand. They are long, slender ellipses, 5 inches long and just 2 inches wide, tapering to a rounded tip with a sudden small point. The upper surface is olive-green, but the lower surface is unique, as it is covered in a dense, suede-like coating of short hairs, colored yellow-orange. These remarkable leaves are always attractive, and they add a lot of interest to this bush when it is not in flower.
In cooler zones flowering takes place in early May, and even earlier in warmer ones – and what a flowering it is. Every branch ends in a fat bud formed the year before, and they open into large rounded clusters of about 14 flower buds. Each bud opens into a tubular funnel-shaped flower, 2½ inches across, with flamboyant wavy edges. The flowers are bright red in bud, opening to a gorgeous light pink with purplish overtones, decorated inside with a scattering of red-orange spots.
This shrub is perfect for the front of beds, especially in smaller gardens, but also in larger ones, alone or planted in a group. Use it beside a pathway, or around a terrace – wherever you need a broad evergreen that won’t grow too tall. Its splendid foliage will always look good, even when the glory of spring is over. Grow it at the edges of wooded areas, or beneath tall trees. If you don’t have suitable soil it is perfect in pots or planters. Its smaller size makes it ideal for Asian-themed or Japanese garden spaces and courtyards, where taller varieties wouldn’t fit in.
The Yaku Prince Rhododendron is one of the most cold-resistant rhododendrons available. It is hardy in zone 4, with a little protection, and completely hardy from zone 5 to zone 8.
The Yaku Prince Rhododendron will grow best in full sun in zone 4, with a little shade from morning sun in winter. In other zones it will grow well with afternoon shade, or all-day light shade, perhaps beneath tall deciduous trees, or in their shadow. The soil should be rich, moist and well-drained – heavy, wet clay should be enriched with plenty of lime-free organic matter. The soil should be acidic, with a pH below 6.5, as it often is in eastern states. If you don’t have suitable soil, grow it in a pot or planter box, using potting soil that has been blended for acid-loving plants. Make sure the pot has good drainage, and don’t stand it in a saucer of water. Water potted plants, and also those in the garden, regularly in summer, as this plant is not drought resistant.
It is helpful to remove the flower spikes as they finish blooming, snapping them off just above the first leaf. This will keep your plant looking neat, and it will also encourage the most blooms for the next year. No other pruning or trimming is needed. In zone 4 use an anti-desiccant spray in early winter and pile up snow over your bush. A burlap screen is helpful for wind protection, and to provide shade in winter, which will reduce the risk of foliage burn and bud damage.
The wild Rhododendron yakushimanum grows on Yaku-shima Island, in Japan, in forests of Japanese cedar. This species has been used by a lot of breeders, attracted to its unique felted leaves and red buds that open to pink flowers. There is a whole royal family of ‘Yaku’ plants, and ‘Yaku Prince’ is one of the very best. It was created in the 1960s by A.M. Shammarello, a noted breeder with a nursery in South Euclid, Ohio. He crossed a ‘Yaku’ selection called ‘Koichiro Wada’, originally brought from Japan in the 1930s, with one of his own hybrids from 1934, ‘King Tut’, which used the American native Rhododendron catawbiense. He created a true Japanese American union.
Not only is the Yaku Prince Rhododendron the perfect choice if you garden in cold areas, its unique silver new shoots and felted leaves keep it always interesting. But let’s not forget those spectacular flowers, that will give you such joy each spring. Order now, because this plant is hard to find, yet highly desirable, so it won’t be long before we have to mark it as ‘out of stock’.