Rhododendron demonstration in Midwest

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill., is launching a demonstration project with the American Rhododendron Society to promote use of the shrub in the Midwest.

The rhododendron is usually associated with more temperate East and West coast climates, but is not found native in the Midwest, except in isolated areas. At the Arboretum, chapter members have planted 66 rhododendrons of 15 varieties in a bed with favorable growing conditions. Arboretum staff and members of the society will use the site to test, select and promote desirable Chicago area rhododendrons.

“There are some terrific azalea and other rhododendron gardens in the Midwest, but most gardeners consider the shrub unusual and difficult to tend. Our goal is to discover what species of the plant are most suitable for this area, and provide education to make them easier to enjoy.”

According to Doris Taylor, Arboretum Plant Information Specialist, rhododendrons are particularly valuable to people seeking eye-catching, different shrubs to punctuate home landscapes. Normally, rhododendrons display their pink, orange or white flowers from late May through June. Most rhododendrons are woodland plants and prefer cool, moist, partially shaded growing sites with acidic, well-drained soil.

The rhododendron project will define and expand a list of recommended varieties for Midwestern gardens. It will concentrate on plants with desirable ornamental qualities, regional adaptability and relative tolerance to pests and disease.

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