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Since Victorian times, Lee’s Dark Purple Catawba Rhododendron has been a beloved Accent for lightly shaded beds and borders. Enthusiasm for this fine selection hasn’t waned—it’s still a favorite many generations after its introduction. What’s not to love? Generous bunches of regal purple blossoms adorn its branches each year in late spring, and fantastic, dark, wavy leaves clothe it from head to toe all year-round. Use it as a bold specimen or as a backdrop to more delicate plants. It also makes a neighbor-friendly privacy screen when planted on your property line and requires hardly any pruning.
- Hardiness Zone: 6
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Lee’s Dark Purple is a type of Catawba Rhododendron. From late April through June, the Catawba Rhododendron lights up shady hillsides and forest understory in the Alleghany Mountains, bringing its rosy purple cheer to a region extending from southern Virginia to northern Alabama. Lee’s Dark Purple therefore calls the U.S. home, although it also owes an allegiance to the U.K.; it was bred by an English nurseryman by the name of John Lee in 1851. It is known as one of the “Ironclad” Rhododendrons for its ability to cope with frigid winters and other challenges.
Some Rhododendrons can be a bit tricky to grow, but Lee’s Dark Purple is one of the most resilient. With proper care, it thrives in the colder states—down to -20ºF—and tolerates the heat and humidity of the South as well. This one is a winner!
How to Grow
Catawba Rhododendron is tougher than many Rhododendrons, but it does appreciate good siting and aftercare. Plant Lee’s Dark Purple in part shade, in cool, acidic, well-drained soil for best results. Keep the rootzone moist but never soggy. An annual layer of organic mulch will help to retain moisture. Avoid harsh chemical fertilizers—Catawba Rhododendron is sensitive to overfeeding; a gentle organic product like Bower & Branch Elements™ Fertilizer is all that is needed if plants seem weak or “hungry.” Black vine weevil and Azalea lace bug can sometimes be an issue, but specimens grown in optimal conditions in most cases will remain healthy and resistant to attack.
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