Rhododendron Care

Tips to Care for Rhododendron Right from the Gardener's Corner

Rhododendrons are flowering plants widely used for gardening and landscaping. Caring for them is not very difficult, but they need optimal growth conditions. Find out some simple tips on rhododendron care and maintenance, if you want to grow this amazing plant in your garden or yard.
Gardenerdy Staff
Last Updated: Aug 2, 2018
Rhododendron Ferrugineum
Rhododendron is a genus of shrubs and small trees. The flowering plants of this genus belong to the plant family Ericaceae.
Rhododendron pink flowers
There are more than 1000 species of flowering plants in this genus, which produce clusters of bell-shaped attractive flowers. Rhododendron is the state flower of West Virginia and Washington, and the national flower of Nepal.
Rhododendron In Park
Rhododendron shrubs and trees usually have shiny and leathery leaves, while a few species have been found to possess scales and hair on the underside of their foliage.
Blooming Rhododendron Caucasian
The beautiful flowers usually appear in clusters, and come in an array of colors; from white to pink, burgundy, peach, yellow, and purple.
Pink Rhododendron Close Up
The rhododendron is one of the most beautiful plants to have in a flower garden or landscape. However, it needs a little bit of care to grow and bloom properly.
Rhododendron Maintenance
Soil and Light Requirements
The rhododendron plant is known to prefer acidic soil. It thrives in acidic and well-drained soil. The soil pH should be 5 to 5.5 for growing a healthy plant. If the soil is alkaline, it can be amended by adding compost, such as peat moss, pine bark mulch, or composted bark and leaves.
By adding compost to clay or sandy soil, you can ensure better drainage. The plant prefers a partially shaded area. So, be sure to select a planting site that can provide these basic growth requirements.
Watering
Senior Woman Watering Plants With Spray Hose
The plant has a shallow root system, for which it requires regular watering during the growing season, and also in the dry season. Usually, it can be watered thoroughly once in every week.
During the rainy season, watering can be done less frequently. But keep in mind that the root ball of the plant should remain moist. If the plant is not getting enough water, you can observe drooping foliage in the early morning. The leaves however, can droop a little in the warm afternoon during the dry season, which is not an indicator of underwatering.
Mulching and Fertilization
Man transplanting rhododendron
Another important part of plant care is mulching, which can prevent drying of the root ball by retaining moisture. You can use leaf mold, pine straw, bark chippings, and pine needles for mulching this plant.
Fertilization is usually not required, if it is planted in the right type of soil, and is growing properly. If fertilization is required, then you can use a slow release fertilizer.
Always use the fertilizers specifically formulated for rhododendrons, azaleas, or acid loving shrubs. The ideal time for fertilization is spring. Over-fertilization can cause browning of the leaf tip and leaf drop.
Pruning
This plant can be pruned at the end of the flowering season. Pruning typically involves the removal of the dead and diseased branches and leaves. Any tall and thin limb at the top of the plant should be pruned back.
Once blooming stops, you can pull out the spent blooms, or the entire cluster of flowers. If the plant has become large and unmanageable, you can opt for heavy pruning, and cut back the entire shrub to about 18 inches above the ground.
Winter Care
Rhododendron
You have to protect your rhododendron from the harsh winter. Some varieties of rhododendrons are suitable for warm climates, while others can tolerate cold weather.
Therefore, be sure to select a variety suitable for the specific climatic conditions of your area. The plant should be watered adequately during Autumn, until the first hard frost.
Mulching can help prevent the drying of the root ball during Autumn. The timing of fertilization is also important for growing healthy plants. If done in late summer or early fall, fertilization can promote new growths, which can become susceptible to winter damage.
This plant can also get adversely affected by winter winds. Therefore, in areas where the winter is harsh, you may need to use burlap, in order to protect the plant from winter winds. To protect the plant from snowfall, a wooden shrub teepee can be used.
Rhododendron plants are quite hardy and they are easily not affected by bugs. They are also less susceptible to plant diseases, if grown in a favorable climate, and when their growth requirements are fulfilled. Iron chlorosis and scorching can become a problem if the plants are not healthy enough, either due to poor soil conditions or extreme temperature.
Rhododendron Bush
In such a situation, it may become necessary to consult a professional to treat these plant diseases. But in general, these plants would grow and produce large and showy blossoms in spring, to help you create a truly beautiful landscape.