Planting suggestions

Most rhododendrons in cultivation are happiest when you provide them with the conditions that exist in the mountainous regions of Asia where their ancestors lived. These conditions include excellent drainage, lots of moisture, loose acidic soil, and a mulch covering over their roots. Here are 9 steps that will ensure your plant gets these requirements:

1. Remove the rhodo from its container and soak the root ball for a few minutes.

2. Dig a shallow yet wide hole, preferably in an area with good light.  Full sun is OK for most.

3. Prepare a soil mix of equal parts of bark mulch, steer manure or topsoil or compost, and peat moss (try transfer stations for mulch; building supply stores for steer manure and peat moss).

4. Stir these components together well and add water.

5. Use a knife to score the root ball vertically in several places around the edge if the roots have started to grow in circles. Otherwise, just fluff up the roots gently.

6. Plant the rhodo slightly above grade and surround the root ball with the soil mix. Do not stamp down the soil around the plant. (If you’re on rock or clay, make a raised bed so that the rhodo will be planted in a mound of the new soil mix above the hard, poorly draining material.)

7. Cover the area to within a few inches of the stem with about 3 inches of loose mulch. Almost any material will do (bark, pine needles, leaves, chipped up garden clippings from a dump, straw, gravel, etc.). However, do not use peat moss or sawdust as a mulch.

8. Water the area frequently during the first growing season, ensuring at least one inch of water per week.

9. Fertilize lightly with rhododendron fertilizer (Costco; Canadian Tire; building supply stores; garden shops) in June or July and then early the following spring.