Given the deep freeze across our country, have we thought of the effect on the plants throughout our garden? I have three different varieties of Rhododendron throughout my yard and they currently look nothing like they will in May.
The leaves are curled giving a shriveled size appearance less than ¼” their size during the growing season. This is normal response of this plant to extreme cold in an effort to prevent desiccation.
Rhododendron are in a group of plants called Broad-leaved evergreens, meaning they keep their foliage throughout the year but differ from Evergreens which have needles such as Spruce and Pine. Their leaves have a large surface area to keep hydrated which is why they prefer to grow in more shaded locations protected from hot, drying afternoon sun and drying winter winds. Natively they grow in the woods as an understory plant providing dappled sun and an organically rich soil environment.
Rest assured that this stressed appearance now is simply a defense mechanism and these leaves will plump out beautifully as the temperatures warm in the spring.
In choosing these plants for your garden take the time to look for hardy varieties for your area both in plant hardiness as well as bud hardiness as the flower buds are set during the previous summer and must also survive the winter months.
Look for part two with my planting suggestions for this type of plant.