Rhododendron catawbiense (Common Name: Catawba rhododendron)
An evergreen shrub that can tolerate shade and produces gorgeous clusters of rosy purple flowers? Awww yeah.
Catawba rhododendron is native to the southern Appalachian mountains from Virginia to Georgia and can be used in a variety of ways in the landscape. They are stunning massed in a line where open yard meets more wooded areas. Because they keep their leaves year-round, they are effective foundation plantings, especially around raised porches and decks because of their potentially large size. They also make lovely specimen plants, with a flush of spring flowers and pretty green foliage all year long.
Rhododendrons prefer bright shade and acidic soil, so you may need to amend your soil to keep them thriving (pine-needle mulch is an easy way to do this). They typically grow 6'-10' tall with an equal spread, so be sure to give them some room to grow.
The plant in the photo above is about 3 feet tall and wide, and has been sited so that it will eventually fill that corner and screen the underside of our deck. We planted it last spring, added some fertilizer for acid-loving plants to the planting hole, watered it in for a few weeks, and have let it alone since then. It is located near an enormous American holly tree whose dropped leaves provide a regular injection of acidification.