Lots of people ask about when the rhododendrons bloom, and that depends on species, elevation, and local climate. The Rosebay, also known as the white rhododendron, is a prominent rhododendron along the Blowing Rock areas of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The blooms vary from white to very pale pink/purple and typically begin to bloom in mid-June in this area. Best viewing usually continues into early July. This is later than the Catawba Rhododendron, the bright pink species found in masses at nearby Roan Mountain. Peak bloom for Roan Mountain is usually around mid-June. The darker, sometimes near-fuschia, blooms of the hybrid rhoddies in downtown Blowing Rock and in nearby parks and gardens peak in May.
The Rosebay Rhododendron will soon put on a pretty show in Blowing Rock. The pale clouds of rhododendron along the local section of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be beckoning you to pull over. “Stop and smell the roses,” right?
July 2, 2021: Many of the Rosebays are now blooming! A few individual shrubs have hit their peak, branches laden with fully-open blooms. However, most plants are still on their way to full bloom. The show is definitely starting, and this holiday weekend will be great for viewing blooms in the area, particularly at Price Lake. The next 10 days or so should offer lovely views of this native flower. We highly recommend a hike around Price Lake, or a canoe/kayak trip across the lake. Here are photos from around Julian Price Memorial Park today.
June 24, 2021: Some buds have just started to break! While there will be a few blooms this weekend, it won’t yet be peak viewing time, as many buds are still shut tight. This photo was taken Wednesday, June 23, and it was one of a handful that we found at this stage around the boating area at Price Lake.
Here’s another image, one of the few clusters ahead of the pack. You can see a couple of tightly closed buds behind it:
Where to see blooms:
The blooms will be opening up into early July. There are many of these plants all over the Blowing Rock area. Price Park is an excellent location to see large collections of the shrub, and the sheer number of blooms during peak is stunning. Take a hike around the lake on the Lake Trail to get a real immersion into the rhoddie growth, or rent a canoe from the docks and enjoy the blooms from the water. The amphitheater is a nice spot to sit and enjoy, as rhododendron growth surrounds the seating.
Also in Price Park, the Green Knob Trail offers a walk through a blooming tunnel when you access the trail by the Sims Creek Bridge. More Rosebay Rhododendron shrubs heavily line the Mountains To Sea Trail near Goshen Creek on the Blue Ridge Parkway (head north from Blowing Rock). Many trails on the Parkway wind through thickets of this plant as well, so you can hike almost anywhere to enjoy some blooms.
Right now, the mountain laurel is still showing clumps of white and pink blooms, though most spots of laurel are past peak. Though rhoddies are of interest to many visitors, there is always something to see, from flame azaleas in May to asters in September. For a full list of wildflower blooms along the Blue Ridge Parkway, visit the Bloom Schedule page on BlueRidgeParkway.org.