Some rhododendrons have really giant leaves, making them very architectural and striking plants, all the year round. On young plants, the leaves can easily be 2 foot long, but only in rich soil and constantly damp and humid conditions do you get the giants of 3 foot or more
Turn the leaves over, or walk underneath an older plant and many have in interesting underside - silvery (R. sinogrande) or brown and furry (R. falconeri). Older plants have the added bonus of large trusses of bell-like flowers, generally yellow (R. macabeanum), cream or pink (R. hodgsonii).
They are strong growers, becoming small trees in time, when the rich brown trunk, smooth or flaking, becomes another interesting feature for all seasons.
In the wild, they grow in damp sheltered woodland and these are the conditions in which they grow best, but they will grow well elsewhere with some shelter, shade and moisture. As with all rhododendrons, peaty soil, leaf mould mulch and moisture will give you a much happier plant. Avoid windy sites, as the big leaves really catch it and the stalk breaks.
Nothing quite beats the impact of a back garden, paved and perhaps 10m x 10m, of a house in Wimbledon, London. The view out of the kitchen window is filled with the enormous leaves of a young R. sinogrande x hodgsonii, flourishing in the shelter and shade of the surrounding houses and trees.
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