Growing a Rhododendron

For a stunning floral display in your yard, try growing a rhododendron. These lovely flowers have been developed into thousands of different hybrids featuring many colors and beautiful foliage. The good thing about rhododendrons is that they are hardy and easy to care for. Growing a rhododendron will be an exciting gardening experience for you.

Many people think of rhododendrons as only the bushy plants that feature loads of showy flowers every spring. Actually there are many other types of rhododendrons. Some are small plants that cover the ground and are well suited to a rock garden. Others are actually full sized trees. One variety, the Rhododendron sinogrande has huge leaves that can be over three feet long. Growing a rhododendron means choosing from a wide range of plants.

Rhododendron Varities

Some beautifully different rhododendrons are the vireya varieties which originate in high altitude mountain forests around the world. They feature tubular blooms and do well in hanging baskets. In the case of vireya varieties, growing a rhododendron requires finding a place that is protected from the frost. While they are mountain plants, they are not cold tolerant.

Azaleas are a special type of rhododendron that grows in a compact fashion and blooms profusely for a stunning display. Some azaleas, notably those originating in Japan, are evergreen plants. Others are deciduous and bloom before they get their leaves in the spring. The leaves go on to turn a bright color in the fall, which makes growing a rhododendron a way to increase the amount of autumn color in your yard.

Where to Plant

In general, most rhododendrons prefer to be planted in areas that are protected from harsh sunlight and wind. There are a few that tolerate sun, and with the exception of the vireyas, they generally tolerate frost, which makes growing a rhododendron a simple matter. The plants need to be placed in soil that has good drainage and a somewhat acidic pH of around 4.5 to 5.5.

When you are growing a rhododendron, you should never let the soil completely dry out. If necessary, you should put in an irrigation method. Use deep mulches to keep the soil moist, too. Compost is always a suitable addition to the soil you're growing rhododendrons in.

Fertilizing

The best way to fertilize your plants when growing a rhododendron is during the late winter or early spring. You can either add a top dressing of bone meal, blood meal, leaf mold, or other organic materials, or you can use pellet forms of fertilizer. You can also grow them in containers, using a basic potting mix or a special rhododendron formula of soil. Be sure to keep container grown plants well watered. You can add water crystals to your potted rhododendrons to keep them moist.

Rhododendrons have shallow roots and can suffer during drought conditions. Especially during the first year of growth, growing a rhododendron requires paying special attention to the moisture in the soil. It can take most of the first year for the fine textured roots of a rhododendron to grow out of the root ball and into the surrounding soil. Always water if you see the leaves beginning to wilt, and keep them misted in very hot weather.

Cultivation is not necessary around the shallow roots of a rhododendron and can actually cause damage to the plant. A deep organic mulch will do a safer job of holding down weed growth when you are growing a rhododendron. Follow these principles for healthy bloomers in your yard.

See Also:

Epsom Salts on Rhododendrons