The Rhododendron: the Washington State Flower

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The Washington state flower is commonly known as the coast rhododendron. In 1892, there was a floral exhibit in Chicago, and the “Rhodie” flower was selected as the Washington state flower. With its prosperous flowering season and attractive evergreen foliage all year round, the rhododendron is one of the most beautiful shrubs in the world

Beautiful in spring as in winter, the flower is vital for shade gardens. It forms spectacular kaleidoscopes of flowering, ranging from pale pink to white, carmine red to yellow through all the shades of pink. The flower fits perfectly in a rock garden or even in a planter on a terrace with large shrubs. Each rhododendron has similar characteristics. Slow in growth, the bush is a space-saving option for your garden, and it is compact enough for city gardens or small spaces.

For the most magnificent flowering, you should consider things like proper exposure, soil, planting periods, and watering. 

In this article, we are going to learn more about the Washington state flower including:

  • Description 
  • Different sizes 
  • Varieties and species 
  • Planting 
  • Care and maintenance 
  • Pests and diseases 


The rhododendron belongs to the ericaceae family. The plant is native to tropical regions from the forests of Asia, Europe, and North America. This flowering shrub is ideal as a flowering hedge. Indeed, it has good qualities. First, the rhododendron is rustic, and cannot complain about a slightly clouded exposure, especially in the undergrowth. Sometimes, the flower adorns with beautiful autumn colors. 

There are around 1000 species, including the great rhododendrons or giant rhododendrons but also the azalea, which is part of the family. Most varieties are shrubby, tree-like, and deciduous. 

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In addition, it offers a wide variety of shapes and colors. In summer, it bears enormous bouquets of flowers with five lobes, which can be red, white, pink, yellow, and purple. 

Be careful, though…the plant is poisonous and a substance in the leaves can cause vomiting, dizziness, and delirium if eaten.

Different Sizes 

An undergrowth plant, the rhododendron is a shrub that comes in all sizes. The dwarf varieties are perfect for tubs and flowerpots, finding its place quickly on balconies and terraces. Giant ones, those over 15 m high, have generous and long flowers. They can be used as a clump, as undergrowth, a border, hedge, in isolation, or even a seaside border, as long as they are not directly on the shore. It can also find its place in a mountain garden in non-calcareous soil. 

The rhododendron is decorative by its bouquets of flowers in bright colors and by its abundant foliage. Alpine species have tiny leaves, while those in mild, humid climates exceed 60 cm in length.  

There are dark green glazed evergreen species like the alpine rhododendron, rhododendron ferrugineum, but others are semi-persistent or deciduous like the cultivar rhododendron ‘Furnival’s Daughter’. Additionally, some varieties have leaves that change color in autumn or winter. 

Varieties and Species 

The rhododendron offers the gardener a massive flowering of all colors (except blue). In a bouquet, the flowers are plain, bicolored, even multicolored, and sometimes spotted. They also come in different shapes: tubular, funnel, bell, trumpet, or almost flat. What is more, in some species, they are scented. 

Read More  Azalea: The Flower as Old as Time

In a temperate climate, the different rhododendron species stagger their flowering from the end of winter until the beginning of summer. Under warmer climates, rhododendrons bloom all year round with an adequate peak in early fall


The rhododendron requires an acidic, fresh, light, and well-drained sandy soil. Do gardens that do not have an acid soil have to forget this beautiful shrub? Not at all. It is possible to plant rhododendron in your garden even if the ground is limestone or neutral.  

We can, for example, create a flower bed in a large tank, buried in the ground and filled with two-thirds of heather earth and one-third of non-calcareous land.  There are also additives you can put in your soil.

The rhododendron can live for many years, and they can trhive in many places, including a pot, which is an excellent solution for a small garden or balcony. 

Consider planting the rhododendron in October in warm regions so that it takes advantage of autumn and spring rains.  They need sun for their new shoots. However, you should protect them from most of the hottest sunrays. It’s best to plant them in the shade of large trees. 

Care and Maintenance 

The rhododendron requires little maintenance. We can remove the wilted flowers and shorten the branches that exceed them. When the plant begins to get old, you should cut a third or half the length of its subsidiaries. It can give it a youthful look. Watering should be constant if the soil is dry, especially during flowering.  

The rhododendron appreciates cool soils; mulch the area with pine bark at its base. This mulch can also protect the roots which can spread. In poor soil, you can use a fertilizer around March. 

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Pests and Diseases 

The rhododendron does not bloom if the soil is too rich in nitrogen. In humid regions, the azalea is more susceptible to diseases and insect attacks, so it is essential to plant it in well-drained soil. Chlorosis, or leaf yellowing, is common in heavy soil, or if the rhododendron is buried too deeply. 

Its enemies are weevils, which eat the edge of the leaves and whose larvae devour the roots. Red spiders discolor the foliage and build small cobwebs at the end of the leaves. 

Mildew can attack rhododendrons, too. Large dark- brown spots occur on the leaves. Additionally, it attacks the roots and causes necrosis of the stems and twigs. 

The solution is the grabbing-up or destruction of affected plants and the disinfection of contaminated soil and sensitive plants for three months and within a 10m radius. Also, remember to clean your tools well after use to avoid contaminating other plants. 

The rhododendron represents the official floral emblem of Washington State. It symbolizes love, beauty, and elegance. Very close to the azalea, this shrub can reach very tall sizes. It appreciates acid soils and shaded areas in summer. The flower is divided into five oblong lobes rounded at the top, slightly wavy at the edges, measuring three to four centimeters.