The Benefits of Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons are native to the shrub belts and the high forests of western China and the Himalayas. From the lavender blue blooms of the Chinese alpine Rhododendron augustinii to the amethyst flowers of Rhododendron fastigiatum, which is of Himalayan descent, to the bright magenta flowers of the Siberian species Rhododendron mucronulatum, the world is a much more beautiful place because of rhododendrons.

Hybrids

Rhododendrons do not appreciate windy conditions or harsh sunlight. They prefer humid climates, filtered sunlight and acidic soil with good drainage to protect their delicate roots. The abundant selection of rhododendron hybrids is to a gardener's benefit. However, this also poses a pleasant problem: which ones to choose for a garden with limited planting space. In terms of colors, Album elegans has soft lilac flowers, America has dark red blooms, and Lady Armstrong exhibits deep pink-purple flowers with red markings.

Hummingbirds

If you enjoy watching the flutter of hummingbirds, it may interest you to know that rhododendrons are a source of nectar for these enchanting creatures. Plant rhododendrons in your garden, and you will encourage hummingbirds to come frequently to enjoy the benefits of their nectar.

Pest Resistance

The evergreen leaves and glamorous, springtime flowers of rhododendrons make them natural garden stars for all seasons. At Washington State University, tests determined that the species known as Rhododendron P.J.M. is almost 100 percent resistant to root weevil attack. Its attractive pink flowers are a further benefit. Also hardy and pest resistant is the Rhododendron yakushimanum, whose pink and white flowers are at its best during their April blooming season. The leaves of this species have felted undersides (indumentum), adding to their attractive appearance and profile.

Alternative Medicine

In the Republic of Georgia, alpine tea is a well-established tradition among those who believe in the benefits of alternative medicine. It is made from the young, spring leaves of Rhododendron caucasicum (snow rose) that is native to the Caucasian Mountains. According to science studies conducted at the Moscow State University, rhododendron caucasicum is a source of antioxidants, and it is also an important source of polyphenols, which have the capability to encourage weight loss by inhibiting the action of the lipase enzyme. These studies reportedly showed that an excretion of about 15 percent to 20 percent more fat from the human body resulted in weight loss of between 5 and 25 lbs. in the course of a three-month experimental period. This natural product is also said to curb or even eliminate the action of the enzyme hyaluronidase, which is known to initiate colon cancer.

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About this Author

Based in Northern California, Maureen Katemopoulos has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years. Her articles on travel, the arts, cuisine and history have appeared in publications such as "Stanislaus Magazine," "Orientations," "The Asia Magazine" and "The Peninsula Group Magazine." She holds a Baccalaureate degree in journalism from Stanford University.