More than a Mouthful

Today we embark on a journey to the Himalayan and Southeast Asian regions. We find a wondrous plant classified as both deciduous or evergreen, depending on the type of species. As we know, deciduous plants shed their leaves before winter, while evergreen leaves hack it out through the cold, snowy months.

With nearly 1,000 species, our plant grows in various shapes and sizes. Often planted as a shrub in urban landscapes. Some species clock out around 5 or 6 feet, while others can sprawl upwards of 25 feet or more. They grow well as an understudy plant to the towering oaks and pines.

Leaves are thick and leathery and flowers vary in shades of red, white, pink and purple, amongst others. Safe to say, just mentioning this plant is a mouthful.

Did I give it away? Submit your final guess.

Bingo, you nailed it! Let’s chat about rhododendrons.

The rhododendron is a great addition to most garden beds. Often purchased from a market, I prefer to grow mine from seed. It takes a little time and nurturing, but well worth the effort. The gorgeous rhododendron flowers are the epitome of springtime blossoms.

For starters, plant your seeds in a small, drainable container. Place loose moss over the top of the soil, to imitate its natural habitat. Germination takes roughly 2 weeks and no sun is required for this process. As soon as your plant sprouts, sun is mandatory. After a month or two, leaves start to form and at this point, you’ll want to replant into a larger pot, so the roots can expand.

My general rule for watering new plants is to wet them every day for the first few weeks. It doesn’t require a great deal of water, just enough to moisten the soil. After a month or so, you can scale back watering to every other day, just add a little more water to these sessions. After growing in a pot for about 1 year, I’d say the plant is ready for the big stage, your garden! Find a sunny spot with some wind coverage and settle them in.

Collecting seeds can be a fun hobby. After the flower has passed, you will notice seed pods form. Pick off a pod and place it in a container, or envelope. In a few weeks, the pod should open up, releasing hundreds of seeds. Envelopes make a great container because you can label them easily.

The rhododendron has many practical uses. The hardwood makes utensils strong and durable.

  • Wood can be carved into various culinary tools like spoons, bowls and handles for sharp knives.
  • Also an excellent source of fuel for a wood stove. The charcoal from rhododendron wood retains heat really well.
  • The strong, slender trunks make them great as fencing material.

Modern medicine has yet to recognize the true potential for many plants in our ecosystem. Rhododendron flowers have been used in traditional medicines across Asia, Europe and America for centuries. You’ll be hard-pressed to find them in the text books.

  • Flowers are boiled in a tea, which can relieve inflammation in the bladder or kidneys.
  • Rhododendron tea also helps give skin a youthful appearance, with a natural glow.
  • Referred to as rhodo juice. You want boil water with clean flowers in it. Once the water boils, turn it off and let simmer.
  • Rhododendron juice is good for the heart and circulatory system.

The rhododendron is a toxic plant. Humans, cats, dogs, livestock, birds and insects all fall victim to the poisonous effects of consuming this plant. Luckily it’s rarely fatal in humans. The leaves cause a burning sensation inside the mouth. An unfortunate circumstance for anything trying to nibble on the leaves.

Side effects can include nausea or vomiting, it could also cause dizziness or fatigue. In some cases blurred vision may occur. Consult with your doctor or veterinarian if you, or your pet, should accidentally consume any part of this plant.

As our journey comes to an end, we leave you with a few, customary fun facts.

Leaves on the evergreen species curl up in winter. This prevents wind burn by limiting the surface area of the exposed leaves. A pretty ingenious idea!

Both the state of West Virginia and Washington have adopted the rhododendron as their state flower. Great choice!

Aside from the beauty, the main reason the rhododendron is so special, is because it’s my wife’s favorite flower. Happy wife, happy life.

See ya next time!

My rhododendron didn’t open this year. I think the drought got to them 😦

17 responses to “More than a Mouthful”

  1. I had one right outside my kitchen window. In the winter I’d just look at the leaves. The tighter the leaves curled up the colder it was outside. Don’t need a thermometer just look at the leaves

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A natural thermostat… I love that Barb! 🌱😉

      Like

  2. In some parts of the UK a few of the more common, robust varieties have “gone native”. in some places blanketing whole hillsides and crowding out every other plants. It looks spectacular for a few, brief weeks in spring, but the long-term negative impact on plants that occur there naturally – and the wildlife that depends on those plants – is a big problem. There are programmes to control / eradicate “wild” rhododendrons in some of these places, but it seems like a hopeless task. Is there a similar issue in the US, I wonder?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read that you guys might call in the army to help eradicate the rhodos? Any truth?

      We haven’t had any major concerns here in the US but certainly something to keep an eye on. Thanks for the comment!! 🌱😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d not heard that. It seems unlikely, although we live in strange times so I guess nothing’s impossible. Mostly it’s conservation organisations, supported by bands of volunteers, that are working to control the rampant rhodos. A massive job, to be sure.

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  3. Thank you for this, I learned something new regarding our beautiful rhododendrons, we used to worry when we saw their curled up leaves and now we won’t have to!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love that you learned something new!!! Thanks for sharing 🌱😁

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We just returned from France and we saw a few very large Rhododendrons out there. I had no idea they had two classifications! Great post they are very beautiful plants! 💚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That awesome! Must of been an amazing trip. Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🌱😁

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very nice post! I am partial to any plant in the Ericaceous family. A good companion for rhodys is Zenobia pulverulenta. Also Kalmiopsis – I grow K. leachiana.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. I’m with you, excellent companion choice! 🌱😁

      Like

  6. love rhodies…and all this information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Pat! Glad you enjoy it and thanks for the comment. 🌱😁

      Like

  7. They are beautiful, but they do grow very big! I’ve just planted a dwarf one this season. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, they sure do, best of luck with the dwarf. 🌱😁

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  8. Rhodos are only a problem plant in acid soil areas. If your soil is at all calcareous ( limestone) then they will not grow unless you add huge amounts of peat. They also wont establish themselves in the wild. Pretty flowers !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Cathy. We really appreciate the tip! 🌱😁

      Like

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