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Species In Our Midst
Rhododendron schlippenbachii

by Joe Bruso


Rhododendron schlippenbachii
Picture by S & J Perkins
Rhododendron schlippenbachii in Salem, NH


Rhododendron schlippenbachii

This Asian deciduous azalea is in Subgenus Pentanthera, Section Sciadorhodion. It is a densely branched shrub with leaves arranged in distinctive whorls of 5 at the end of the branchlets. The leaves can be prone to sunburning if grown in an excessively sunny location lacking protection from afternoon sun. Autumn foliage color may be yellow, orange or crimson. The plant is hardy to -25°F (-32°C), growing to 4 feet in 10 years. It prefers a less acid soil than most rhododendrons.

There are 3 to 6 large, funnel-shaped flowers per inflorescence. Flower color ranges from pale pink to rose-pink or white, spotted red-brown on the 3 upper lobes. Flowers can be almost 3 1/2 inches across. The slightly fragrant flowers open immediately before the leaves, with both flowers and leafy shoots emerging from the same terminal bud.

This species was introduced to the west when it was discovered in Korea in 1854 by a Russian naval officer, Baron von Schlippenbach, for whom it is named. Its natural range extends from Korea into bordering parts of Manchuria and Russia. It is one of the commonest shrubs in Korea, being the dominant undergrowth plant in some forests. During June, these areas are transformed into vast drifts of pink.

According to Cox, "R. schlippenbachii is one of the finest azalea species, with attractive foliage, good autumn color and large handsome flowers."

Joe Bruso, Hopkinton, MA


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