Rhododendrons can be fussy, but always beautiful

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 10, 2019

The saying used to be, “April showers bring May flowers.” We definitely had some rain in April, but we had numerous beautiful blooms in April, as well.

At the end of April, Hurley Park helped participate in the City Nature Challenge using the iNaturalist app. It wasn’t hard to do since the park had so many blooms, and it was truly gorgeous.

With the warming temperatures, things seem to be on an earlier time scale. Luckily for Hurley Park, we have many plants that bloom throughout the year and we are just starting with our blooming schedule, particularly the rhododendrons.

Hurley Park is well known for its flowers, and it is one of the reasons that Hurley is so popular for prom photos. I stopped by one Saturday in April, and it was like an event at the park. There was not a single parking area available. There were lines at every gazebo, deck and at every blooming garden. It was like waiting in line at the amusement parks. The azaleas were nearing their peak, and the rhododendrons were really starting to pop with color.

Rhododendrons are some of my favorite flowers and are more common in the foothills and mountain areas of the state. Hurley Park has some beautiful specimens in the traditional purple, red and orange. Rhododendrons range in color from white and yellow to red and orange.

Some of the plants in Hurley Park are over 10 feet wide and 7 feet tall, which creates quite a show. One of the most spectacular plants is near Sophie’s Podium and has a beautiful deep red blossom. I know it is hard to resist taking some of the flowers but the rhododendrons only bloom for a short amount of time and do not have numerous blooms like its family kin, the azalea.

Rhododendrons can be finicky, and they are not very easy to grow in the home landscape. They prefer partial shade, acidic soil (pH range of 5-5.5), and they need good drainage. Many rhododendrons perish early in their lifespan due to root rot from poor drainage, so it is imperative to pick a good spot and complete a soil test before you plant.

Rhododendrons do not need a lot of fertilizer but if you do choose to fertilize them, you need to select specific varieties that are made for azaleas and rhododendrons.

I hope you will fall in love with rhododendrons like I have, and be sure to visit the park while they are blooming. For more information or to donate to Hurley Park, please visit: https://salisburync.gov/Government/Parks-and-Recreation/Parks/Hurley-Park, like us on Facebook and Instagram @HurleyParkSalisbury or call us at 704-638-4459.