This large group, which also contains azaleas, is made up of evergreen and deciduous, mostly shade-loving, shrubs and trees. They are grown for their gorgeous flowers and foliage and range from small shrubs to trees.

Suitable site and soil. They need a well-drained yet moist, peaty loam with no lime in a semi-shaded, sheltered site.

Cultivation and care. Spread fertilizer over the roots of the plant every year in spring and dead-head after flowering. Overgrown bushes can be cut back in late spring.

Propagation. From cuttings, seeds, grafting and by layering.

Recommended varieties. Hybrids are best for the garden as they are generally hardier and more tolerant of pollution. The evergreen compact R. ‘Dora Amateis’ has pink-tinged white flowers with green markings in spring. It grows to about 90cm – 3ft high and wide. A popular showy variety is the evergreen ‘Purple Splendour’, with a height and spread to about 3m – 10ft. It is fully hardy and has richly coloured blooms of an imperrial purple which appear in late spring and early summer. The deciduous azalea R. luteum (Azalea pontica), or one of its many hybrids, is a favourite and produces masses of yellow flowers in sprjng, with light green leaves turning scarlet in autumn. It is a vigorous shrub and grows to about 2.4m – 8ft high by 1.5m – 5ft across.

Pests and diseases. Pests are weevils, caterpillars, whiteflies, and rhododendron bugs and leafhoppers. Diseases include powdery mildew, rust, honey fungus and leaf spot.


R. luteum with yellow flowers in spring and scarlet leaves in autumn looks delightful when underplanted with blue flowers. Try willow gentian (Gentiana asclepiadea) in autumn.

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