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One hundred and seventy years later, it’s still a favorite! Purpureum Elegans Catawba Rhododendron is a treasured Accent that has truly stood the test of time. Beloved for generations, this heirloom plant finds an honored place in gardens of all types. It looks regal in the most formal of landscapes but is equally at home in naturalistic gardens as well. Purpureum Elegans supplies lively greenery to foundation plantings, island beds, and mixed borders all year-long, and its blossoms are a bonanza in late spring. The rich purple blooms, borne in abundance, capture the essence of that sweet season.
- Hardiness Zone: 5
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In May and 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. This American native was named after Native Americans—the Catawba people have their homeland in South Carolina. Purpureum Elegans therefore has its origins in the U.S., but also in England, where it was first grown. The Waterer family of the illustrious Knap Hill Nurseries in Sussex brought this revered Accent to life. Hosea Waterer, who actually lived in Philadelphia, is credited with its introduction in 1850.
Some Rhododendrons can be a bit tricky to grow, but Purpureum Elegans is one of the most resilient. With proper care, it thrives in the colder states—down to -25ºF—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 Purpureum Elegans 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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