Care of the Rhodedendron Plant
- 1). Plant the most suitable variety of rhododendron for your local climate. For instance, grow Dexter's Purple in a southern garden, Bob's Blue for the Pacific Northwest, Gigi for New England and Horizon Monarch for California. Locate a well-draining, slightly acidic site with full sun exposure for the plant. If necessary, enrich poor-quality soil with compost or manure prior to planting.
- 2). Spread 2 inches of organic mulch around the base of the plant, all the way until the drip line. Space the mulch 4 to 6 inches from the main stems or trunk. Replenish decomposed mulch to maintain the level throughout the year.
- 3). Water the rhododendron plant one to two times a week to provide it 1 inch of water. Use a soaker hose that provides a steady stream of water and prevents splashes on the foliage. The hose also keeps the soil around the shallow roots moist.
- 4). Pull out weeds that pop their way around the rhododendron plant. Although the year-round mulch prevents weed infestation, a few may pop up and require immediate removal. Because rhododendrons have shallow roots, avoid cultivating the soil too deeply, as you risk damaging their roots.
- 5). Fertilize the rhododendron plant in less fertile soil with a complete fertilizer specifically formulated for acid-loving plants in early spring. Follow label directions for application rates, because rhododendrons and azaleas require less dosage than grasses. Feed rhododendrons in fertile soils 2 lbs. of 6-10-4 fertilizer per 100 square-foot area.
- 6). Prune the rhododendron plant to maintain shape and size. Although excessive pruning is not necessary, light pruning maintains the appearance of the plant and invigorates growth. Remove flower stems immediately after flowering -- so flowering is not reduced the following year. Trim wayward, damaged and diseased branches. Collect clippings and plant debris from around the rhododendron and discard.
- 7). Erect a shade structure around the plant to protect if from direct sunlight and wind during the winter. Insert stakes or PVC pipes in the soil around the place and lay burlap over their tops. Keep the cover airy and loose.