Rhododendron maximum (Rosebay Rhododendron) - Qt Super Plugs


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A beautiful native broadleaf evergreen shrub, Rosebay is found in moist, shady acidic sites in the Appalachian Mountains from Southern Maine west to Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky south to Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Rosebay is tolerant of dense shade, and is often found in Eastern Hemlock forests, though flowering and fullness will improve with a bit of increased light.

Rosebay is capable of growing to heights of 25-30 feet in the Southern Appalachians, though 10-15 feet is a more realistic max in most landscapes.  The shrub has large leaves, 4-8 inches long, as well as large, ornamental trusses of white to light-Pink flowers in late June to early July.


Rosebay Rhododendron is a highly useful shade shrub - It is one of the most shade-tolerant shrubs in North America.  It is also one of the faster-growing rhododendrons, often putting on 8-12" trusses each year.

Use Rosebay as a backdrop for a shade garden, or as a screen for a shady yard.  Flowering will be much better with morning sun, though full sun isn't well tolerated.  For a sunnier spot, try Catawba rhododendron or its hybrids.

Rosebay rhododendron is deer resistant, though they will eat it if there's nothing else available.  We've had rabbits nibble on young seedlings around the nursery, but not established shrubs.

How to Grow Rosebay Rhododendron

Rosebay performs best in a temperate climate, and requires more shade or higher elevation as you go South.  Loose, freely draining acidic soil is a must; Rosebay will suffer in heavy clay or alkaline soils.  Space 6 feet apart in groupings, and they will fill in to be an impenetrable thicket!

 A little trick we've used for planting rhododendrons:

  1. Dig your planting hole, about 6 inches deep and 3 feet in diameter.
  2. Dump half a bag of pine bark mulch and dig it into the soil
  3. Set the rhododendron on top of the hole
  4. Pile the rest of the pine bark around the root ball so the bark is level with the top of the root ball
  5. Water well with drip irrigation or a hose set on trickle; do this every week for an hour or two if the weather turns dry.

We've got some really nice-looking rhododendrons at the nursery now, thanks to this method!  Everybody thinks that we can't grow rhododendrons here in Central Indiana because of the clay, but there's a few residential houses around that have 6-foot tall catawbiense rhodies doing just fine.

Some shade is appreciated, and Rosebay does especially well under deciduous trees that have been limbed up to allow light in the understory.  Rosebay Rhododendron performs poorly in exposed sunny positions, though a spot with morning sun is fine.  As long as the area receives shade after 11:00 AM or so, the plants will grow well.  Blooming is much better with a few hours of morning sunlight.

Our Rosebay rhododendrons are grown in 1 Quart SuperPlug fabric containers and will be 8-12 inches tall.  To plant, just cut a slit down the side of the pot and peel back the fabric.

Common Name: Rosebay Rhododendron
Botanical Name: Rhododendron maximum