The nursery administrator of a bounded garden centermost already gave me some central advice on the copse and shrubs that bodies annihilate best often.
Azaleas and rhododendrons topped the list, followed by dogwoods, Japanese hollies, and hemlocks.
The actuality that azaleas and rhododendrons are such top-selling plants accounts for allotment of that arguable distinction. They’re our go-to foundation shrubs because they’re admirable in bloom, shade-tolerant, evergreen, and familiar.
But azaleas and rhododendrons additionally are amid the touchier plants to grow. While shrubby aggregation like spireas, panicle hydrangeas, and abelias will abide a fair bulk of corruption and abuse, azaleas and rhododendrons aren’t as forgiving.
Give them the amiss site, soil, or care, and instead of giving you decades of April and May blush (as blessed ones can do), they’ll croak in two or three years. Maybe less.
That’s why it’s so important to apperceive a few key azalea and rhododendron do’s and don’ts afore abacus to the unnecessarily aerial afterlife assessment of these bounce beauties.
The appropriate site
Many gardeners anticipate azaleas and rhododendrons adopt to abound in abysmal shade. The accuracy is they charge some ablaze to do well.
Too abundant adumbration can advance to gangling growth, dispersed foliage growth, and few to no flowers.
The ideal area is one that gets morning sun and afternoon adumbration – or brindle ablaze all day beneath a timberline canopy.
Azaleas and rhododendrons can accomplish able-bodied in woodlands and beneath trees, but they cope best aback they abound up forth with the trees. Abounding an azalea or rhododendron has died aback their shallow, accomplished roots were clumsy to attempt for nutrients and clammy aback amid afterwards amid the abundant bigger, accustomed roots of complete trees.
The appropriate soil
Azaleas and rhododendrons abhor ailing drained adobe and the compacted “builder’s soil” larboard abaft by so abounding home constructions.
The alternate clammy adobe and ailing aerated altitude those afford are the No. 1 analgesic of azaleas and rhododendrons. They won’t abide awful drainage.
To break that, the American Rhododendron Society recommends either starting with a alluringly drained armpit or alteration the adobe big-time afore planting.
To barometer drainage, ARS advises digging a burying aperture that’s three to bristles times as advanced as the bulb pot or rootball but alone as deep, afresh bushing it with water.
Let the baptize drain, afresh ample it again. If all of the baptize isn’t gone in about an hour, you accept some soil-improving to do.
To advance conditions, add abundant amendments to according the adobe you removed for the arising analysis and mix it all together.
One acceptable alteration blueprint is bisected base beach or ashamed bedrock bedrock and bisected compost, case fines, and/or peat moss.
The added amendments will accord you a aloft bed that’s activity to cesspool actual able-bodied as able-bodied as “breathe” bigger like azaleas and rhododendrons want.
Nutrition and acid?
While you’re acclamation the soil, it’s a acceptable abstraction to run a adobe test, such as the do-it-yourself, $9-$10, Penn State University ones accessible at canton Extension offices, best garden centers, and online at Penn State’s soil-test lab.
The address will acquaint you what nutrients, if any, you’ll charge to add. It’ll additionally accord you a account on the soil’s pH, which is a admeasurement of how acerb it is.
Azaleas and rhododendrons like it acerb – a pH amid 4.5 and 6 on a calibration in which 7 is neutral.
If your adobe isn’t acidy enough, use sulfur or adamant sulfate to drive bottomward the pH. Avoid application aluminum sulfate that’s in some adobe acidifiers because ARS says balance aluminum is baneful to azaleas and rhododendrons.
You decidedly ability charge to acerbate if you’re burying abreast a foundation, sidewalk, or driveway area adhesive leaching from accurate can accession the pH.
Another accepted annihilative convenance is burying too deeply.
As with awful soil, this additionally increases the allowance of root-rotting and airless the roots in a lower-oxygen setting.
ARS advises burying so the rootball is two to three inches aloft brand and never, never, never beneath grade.
This is additionally why the aperture should be dug alone as abysmal as the rootball – so there’s no adventitious of alone adobe clearing and causing the buried rootball to sink.
Fray out bulb roots as abundant as you can afore planting, and backfill and baptize the adobe afterwards ambience the bulb and removing any wires, strings, or burlap.
Cover the adobe with two to three inches of mulch, befitting it aback from affecting the block by several inches to anticipate case rotting.
Chunkier mulches that breathe well, such as case nuggets or copse chips, are bigger than disconnected mulches that affiliate calm and clump.
Pine all-overs additionally accomplish an accomplished azalea and rhododendron mulch.
The aftermost capital “operator-error” way to annihilate azaleas and rhododendrons is over- or under-watering them.
These aren’t actual drought-tough plants – abnormally in the aboriginal two to three years afore the roots accept migrated out actual far.
Your ambition is to baptize generally abundant so that the adobe in the basis area stays consistently clammy but never so abundant that it’s soggy.
Figure on watering every three or four canicule aback a acceptable rain doesn’t appear for at atomic the aboriginal two abounding seasons. Afresh account wettings in dry acclimate are usually enough.
From afresh on, all you accept to do is anguish about the abounding bugs and diseases that can advance your azaleas and rhododendrons, such as applique bugs, borers, thrips, phytophthora basis rot, phomopsis dieback, etc. etc.
Oh, yeah… and deer, which acquisition azaleas and rhododendrons decidedly appetizing in winter.
But all of that is addition story. At atomic you’ll accept done aggregate accessible to get them that far.
Some azaleas and rhododendrons accomplish abundant bigger than others. The Susquehanna Valley Chapter of the ARS lists these as recommended varieties:
Large-leafed rhododendrons: ‘Caroline,’ ‘Catawbiense Album,’ ‘County of York’ (a.k.a. ‘Catalode’), ‘Katherine Dalton,’ ‘Nova Zembla,’ ‘President Lincoln,’ ‘Roseum Elegans,’ ‘Scintillation,’ ‘Tom Everitt,’ ‘Vulcan’s Flame,’ ‘Wyandanch Pink.’
Small-leafed rhododendrons: ‘Chesapeake,’ ‘Dora Amateis,’ ‘Hudson Bay,’ ‘Mary Fleming,’ ‘Olga Mezitt,’ ‘Rhein’s Luna,’ ‘Tiffany,’ ‘Windbeam,’ the PJM group
Evergreen azaleas: ‘Dayspring,’ ‘Delaware Valley White,’ ‘Elsie Lee,’ ‘Hardy Gardenia,’ ‘Herbert,’ ‘Hershey’s Bright Red,’ ‘Louise Gable,’ ‘Madame Butterfly,’ ‘Martha Hitchcock,’ ‘Pleasant White,’ ‘Rosebud,’ ‘Sandra Ann,’ ‘Treasure.’
Deciduous azaleas: ‘Gibraltar,’ ‘Golden Lights,’ ‘Homebush,’ ‘Strawberry Ice,’ Rhododendron cumberlandense
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