PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Pacific Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum)

Once again, we find ourselves all wiggly with excitement about a plant. For those who know us, insert ‘eye-roll’ here.

Pacific Rhododendron is the Washington State flower and is incredibly rare to find in cultivation or for sale in nurseries. We’re not sure why, because of all the Rhodies, our native one is by far the best suited for our climate of wet & cool for 8 months and warm & very dry for 3-4 months.

Pacific Rhody grows most happily as an understory shrub snuggled up to big Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, and other giants. It thrives in shade with just winks of light passing through the canopy above or out at the edge of the larger companion’s drip line with a half day or more of direct sun. It does not like to be a stand-alone plant out in the wide-open. It likes the company of other plants. It grows tall enough to offer protection and companionship to smaller understory plants like Salal and Evergreen Huckleberry.

R. macrophyllum will grow to as much as 20 feet in shade, trying to reach up & get sunlight. Planted out at the edge of the tree line in more sun it will stay shorter and denser to maybe 6-8 feet like more common Rhody cultivars. The blooms can range from light baby pink to a medium, slightly purplish pink in April and May.

Fun fact: in 1892, before women had the right to vote, only women were polled across Washington to choose an official state flower. They chose Pacific Rhododendron.