Rhododendrons don’t actually need too much care and attention, but you might wish to know how to take care of rhododendrons if you are looking at planting them.
What You'll Learn Today
How Much Sun Do Rhododendrons Need?
The different types of rhododendron have different needs – something which may come as a surprise!
As a general rule they like dappled shade. Placing them in the full sun can damage them, and full shade will impair the flower growth; you want something in between.
This being said, the smaller alpine rhododendrons can cope with a full sun position, as long as their soil does not become parched.
Getting enough sun not only encourages the flowers, but it can also stop the plant being susceptible to damp and mildew problems.
Try to find a spot that receives a good few hours of sunlight, but is also shaded for part of the day.
6 hours of sunlight per day is considered perfect for rhododendron, but they don’t need to receive this in a full sun position – as long as they do receive it!
Planting your rhododendron in dappled shade, ie alongside other taller plants, is the best option for these evergreen bushes.
This informative article will tell you just about everything you need to know about the right growing conditions for rhododendron.
How Often Do You Water A Rhododendron?
When the plants are young, or if you have just planted them out or moved them, they should be watered well until they are established.
New rooted cuttings should be watered well; daily to start with then slowly tapering off as the plant grows.
Once fully settled and growing well, you shouldn’t have to water your rhododendron, well, pretty much ever!
Of course, if you are going through a prolonged dry spell then you should definitely give them a drink, but generally these plants tolerate dry conditions very well.
Checking on the soil is the best way to establish if your plants are thirsty – if it is bone dry then you should definitely reach for the watering can.
How To Make Soil More Acidic For Rhododendrons?
If you have alkaline soil, you may despair of growing rhododendron. However, there is a lot you can do to change the pH of your soil!
- Sphagnum moss. This acidic moss can be placed in the hole you wish to plant your rhododendron in, in a ratio of half moss and half soil.
- Wood chips. You can mulch the area around your rhododendron with this material, as it will impart a slight acidity to the soil.
- Shredded oak leaves. Collect up any oak leaves you can find, pass them through a shredder (or chop them roughly by hand) and place around your rhododendron.
- Pine needles. These little spikes are acidic and will help to lower your soil’s pH.
- Sulfur. Although not quite as natural a solution as the others, spreading sulfur around your rhododendrons will help them enormously.
If you need to know how to make your soil more acidic for your favorite bushes, have a look at this video:
When To Fertilize Rhododendrons?
Rhododendrons need a bit of a feed a couple of time a year, in order to produce those beautiful blooms.
The best time to fertilize rhododendron is around March, before the flowering season starts.
Fertilizing your rhododendron again after the flowering season is over (around the end of summer) is also a great tip.
Giving your rhododendron a good feed at least once a year will give it the boost it needs to help it do the best that it can.
For well established rhododendron bushes, feeding is less important as the plant should be able to take what it needs through its wide root system.
However, feeding your rhododendrons will help them perform at their absolute best, so it is definitely something to consider.
What To Feed Rhododendrons?
Rhododendrons don’t need a constant supply of fertilizer, but a good dose now and then will really help them on their way.
In the late winter or early spring, apply a layer of general purpose fertilizer, going for 70g per square metre.
You can use chicken manure pellets, or, if you have your own chickens, add some of their rotted manure to the soil.
If your rhododendrons are in pots, it is recommended that you change the top 2 inches of soil yearly, and feed in the summer with a liquid fertilizer.
You can also buy specific rhododendron and azalea fertilizer from just about any good gardening shop.
Your rhododendron will cope without these measures, and it may still thrive – but giving it a good feed every now and then will help it enormously.
What To Do With Rhododendrons In The Winter?
Rhododendrons do like to be kept warm and snugly. They will tolerate a cold winter, but there is much that you can do to make it more comfortable for them!
These plants have shallow roots, so keeping these safe from the biting winds and bitter cold is essential.
- Mulch. Protecting your plants with a good 4 inch layer of mulch should keep them cozy from any potential cold winter weather – and this will give them a nutrient boost too.
- Water well. This is less important in the actual winter, but giving your rhododendrons a good drink at the very end of autumn should set them up well for the cold months.
- Make a wind break. You can keep your rhododendron happy by preventing the chill winds from reaching it, using burlap sacks or a snow fence is ideal to protect your plant.
- If your rhododendron are in pots, you can bring them in to a greenhouse or even indoors, if it is a very harsh winter.
- Mulch also works well for pots if you don’t want to bring them inside!
How to take care of rhododendron is actually easier than you might imagine, as you can hopefully now see!
This plant may have a reputation for being fussy, but with a few little strategies you can make it as happy as it can be.