The dark pink buds of Rhododendron yakushimanum ‘Mist Maiden’ open to apple blossom pink and gracefully age to white on an evergreen shrub that rarely grows more than 5 feet by 5 feet in size. The large, dark green evergreen leaves feature a tawny indumentum (feels like hairs) on their undersides that provides interest throughout the year. New growth is covered with silvery hairs that form a striking contrast to the older leaves. Fourteen to 17 flowers are produced in each truss (inflorescence) at the tips of the branches. In 2007, this cultivar was awarded the Rhododendron of the Year Award by the Atlantic chapter of the American Rhododendron Society.
Rhododendrons and azaleas produce very small, fine feeder roots very close to the soil surface that are easily damaged during periods of heat and drought. The application of an inch of pine needle or pine bark mulch over the root zone is recommended to moderate the soil temperatures and to prevent excessive drying of the soil. This species also requires an acidic soil pH in order to thrive, achieved by planting on well-drained sands (old Lake Michigan ridge lines are the best example) or completely replacing the high pH heavy clay soils native to this region with a mix of sand and peat moss, top dressed by pine needles.
This species was not discovered and introduced into cultivation until the latter half of the twentieth century from Yakushimanum Island near the southern tip of Japan. Botanists have reclassified it as a subspecies of Rhododendron degronianum. All species of Rhododendron (includes azaleas) have toxic stems, leaves, and flowers. During the colonial period of the British Empire, soldiers stationed in the Himalayas learned this the hard way. Bee keepers always make sure there is a wide variety of flowers for their bees to visit, in addition to Rhododendron plants, to avoid any issues with toxicity.
March - April, May - June
Screen/Hedge, Specimen Plant, Understory