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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Rhododendron 'Silver Sword'
Sunset zones: 4-9, 14-24.
USDA zones: 6-9.
Heat zones: 9-6
Height: 24 inches (60 cm).
Width: 3 feet (2.2 m).
April to May.
Funnel-shaped, wavy lobed, rose-red flowers trusses bearing 2-8 flowers.
Leaves are narrowly elliptic to elliptic, variegated, green leaves with white margins. In fall, leaves take on brilliant red hues, growing redder as winter approaches. The shrub is evergreen; the leaves remain on the plant for two years.
Full sun to part shade.
Humus rich, well-drained, acidic soil.
Lightly prune for symmetry after the shrub has finished flowering; rarely needs pruning.
Rainy Side Notes
Winner of the American Rhododendron Society's 2006 Rhododendron of the Year award, R. 'Silver Sword' is well suited for the maritime Pacific Northwest garden. I found this shrub in Florence, Oregon while on vacation in May, after its flowers were past their prime and diligently deadheaded. I bought the plant because of the variegated leaves. Planting it under a plum tree, I enjoy the evergreen leaves all summer, especially in autumn and winter when the leaves take on splashes of red hues. Winter afternoons, the red takes on an ethereal glow, while the leaves' white margins punctuate their brilliance. In April, when the small rhododendron blooms, it puts on a colorful floral show. For such a little shrub, the large, two-inch wide, rose-red flowers completely hide the foliage. Most rhododendrons have a rambunctious one-time floral display in spring, and then quietly fade into the garden the rest of the year. This little gem remains charming year-round.
Rhododendron 'Silver Sword' is a sport of a Girard hybrid--R. 'Girard Rose'. Provide protection from midday sun; too much sun will scorch its leaves.
Photographed in author's garden.