Article Copied from the American Rhododendron Society Blog

Print date: 4/17/2024

Three Little Reds

11 June 2014 @ 10:36 | Posted by Norma

Many of us are downsizing our gardens and growing smaller Rhododendrons allow us to indulge our passion for our favourite genus. There are lots of small rhodies to choose from, but if you’re looking for good reds, then three small reds come to mind that fit the bill of small plants with good foliage.

If you’re interested in species, then R. forrestii ssp forrestii 'Repens' is a lovely plant to grow. It really is a ground cover, not growing over about 18 inches in height, if that. I've been growing this species as a "companion plant" in a couple of large containers. While I've had the plants for 5 or 6 years, my R. forrestii hasn't bloomed much (I think it is a shy bloomer anyway), but I don't really care. The occasional red flowers are handsome and I enjoy seeing them, but it's the foliage I like as the plants have good, shiny green leaves that make a lovely, well-behaved ground cover in my large pots. I have the 'Repens' form, but there are a number of selected forms available.

R. forrestii ssp forrestii is one of the parents of both 'Baden Baden' and 'Carmen', two nice small hybrids, both of which have been around for many years. 'Baden Baden' is a Hobbie hybrid ('Essex Scarlet' x R. forrestii), and 'Carmen' is a Rothschild hybrid of R. sanguineum ssp didymum x R. forrestii.

'Baden Baden' has bright red flowers, about 2 inches across, with a slightly darker eye. Flowers are borne in clusters of 3 to 5. When in bloom, the flowers make a nice contrast with the emerald green foliage. It's fully hardy here in the Pacific Northwest where it blooms in mid to late April. Plant height is 2 to 3 feet after 10 years, so it's a good choice for either a small garden or to grow as a container plant.

'Carmen' has deeper red flowers, more maroon red than scarlet. It is considered a true dwarf hybrid, reaching just 18 to 24 inches after 10 years. The leaves are rounded and the plant forms a nice mounded growing habit. I've been growing 'Carmen' in a container plant for a few years now, and it blooms reliably for me in late April to early May. It's a great plant to enter in flower shows because people just fall in love with it when it's in bloom. The flowers are small and bell-shaped.

All three of these plants are reasonably easy to find and easy to grow, both in conventional shrub borders or in containers, so, if you're looking for small, red-flowered rhododendrons, consider growing these three - they're all good 'do-ers'.