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Rhododendron Rose

The Rose Tree

Rhododendron, the genus, is a group of blossoms of infinite variety and beauty along with their fabulous leaves, forms, and growth habits. A group of plants with a rich and long history around the world; found in the Himalayas to the Carolinas, the jungles of Borneo, Japan and Hawaii. It was Westerners that created swashbuckling adventurist tales around plant collectors and visionary gardeners. Collectors have diced with death to bring back new varieties. Victorian breeders pushed the boundaries of plant genetics. Rhododendrons are used as medicines, insecticides, and intoxicants for centuries. A weapon of war. Chinese folktales speak of doomed love.

Jane Brown tells us of the rhododendron’s origins fifty million years ago. It was in the 1600s that rhododendrons (rhodies) began their journey into the West. Charles L’Ecluse, a Flemish botanist, participated in a limited trade in the 16th century. Botanists, Peter Collinson and John Bartram exported Rhododendron nudiflorum, viscosum, maximum, and canescens in 1736 to England. A sudden favorite of European gardens with its fibrous and shallow roots made for easy travelling. Soon to followed by being labelled invasive. Reinhard Witt, a German biologist and advocate of nature gardens, published an article entitled Tear the Rhododendrons out. Which may explain their disappearance until the Second World War. John Bartram continue exporting rhodies and in the 1760s sent species varieties to American and then to Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum in the 1870s.


Blossoms compared to roses in Greek, the words rodon means rose and dendron means tree. In Nepal, the tree rhododendron, Rhododendron arboreum, lali gurans, a red bloom, is the national flower. The Rhododendron maximum is the state flower of West Virginia and Washington state is the pink blossoms of Rhododendron macrophyllum, Pacific/Coast Rhododendron.

The Latin translation of rhododendron and azaleas means dry. Both are part of the family Ericaceae. The Greeks love growing rhododendrons, especially for their flowers and their preference for light and quick draining soil.

Rhododendron’s blossoms are fill with rich meanings. One of the oldest is to be beware and for any reason. Rhodies reminds us to think about ourselves and our beloved ones.

  • Use a blossom to send the message of elegance and wealth. When you want to wish someone success, go to nice places, and enjoying material goods. Add them to your own sacred spot to help build your abundance.
  • Give a blossom when you want to catch someone’s attention or as a passionate indicator.
  • A blossom or a bouquet will send strength and compassion to someone who needs care.
  • Show temperance. One of the best blossoms that show your appreciation of someone and their life. The Victorians believed one was more modest and sober when carrying a rhodie blossom with you.
  • It represents calmness, patient, and cautious people who don’t need to be boisterous or flamboyant.
  • Bouquets were sent by the Chinese and Japanese when they were feeling nostalgic about home and away from their families. The blossoms represent their love and regret. It tells their loved ones; I can’t wait to see you again and I miss you.
  • Used as a sign of a death threat or the dark side of someone’s nature in past centuries.
  • Shouts out a big thank you to someone who has made a huge impact on your life.
  • Supports someone who is about to make a big and important decision.
  • A strong plant supporting its magnificent blossoms, the blossom can break off at the gentles of touches. An indication of a fragile love when the blossom fails.

Match the meaning with colors to send your thoughts.











  • Orange for joy, vibrancy and glad to see you.
  • Purple, a symbol of nobility and royalty. This will express your excellent taste. It is a way of saying, thank you.
  • The pink shades are about romance, passion, love, and tenderness. Dark pink leaves a strong impression. Generally pink shades are a way of expressing appreciation or/and that you want to build a long relationship with the receiver.
  • Red for Valentine’s Day. Expressions of passion or romantic feelings. Use red as a message of strong connection to someone that you are not romantic with and care for.
  • Yellow sends positive energy, happiness, friendship, optimism, and blessings of good chances in life.
  • White is a symbol of faith, innocent, civility, and purity.


Rhododendron Fun Facts

  • The British named rhododendrons the Alpine Rose, after seeing them in the Alps for the first time in the 17th century.
  • Rhododendron ponticum produces Mad Honey, a biochemical hallucinatory discovered by the Greek commander Xenophon (430—354 B.C.E.) He used it to fight the Persians.
  • Leaves of Rhododendron might cause stomach irritation, coma, abnormal heart rate. Know your dosage and intended use.



Go Visit

Meerkerk Gardens

Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden

Venture Out Nursery



History of Rhododendron Discovery & Culture. Henning. American Rhododendron Society

My Flower Meaning

Rhododendron. Richard Milne.

Tear the Rhododendrons out. Reinhard Witt. 1986.

The Myth of Plant-Invaded Gardens and Landscapes. Gert Gröning et Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn.

Ridiculous History: Ancient Armies Waged War With Hallucinogenic Honey. Laura Dove. February  2017.

Simple Words & Beautiful Pictures, Guy Deakins, (n.d.)

Tales of the Rose Tree: Ravishing Rhododendrons and Their Travels Around the World. Jane Brown. 2006.


The American Rhododendron Society