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Planting Rhododendrons and Azaleas by M. Jackson

      PLANTING RHODODENDRONS AND AZALEAS 

  1. Rhododendrons and Azaleas prefer porous, well drained acidic soil with a ph of 4.5-6 where there will be some high, dampled shade. 
  1.  If the root ball seems dry then soak the root ball while you are preparing the hole or for at least several minutes. 
  1. If you have a lot of clay in your soil and do not have good drainage or if your soil is alkaline then you could plant the Rhododendrons and Azaleas in raised beds or containers. 
  1. Dig the hole half again as large as the root ball. You can plant using Ericaceous compost. 
  1. If the plant is root bound (a lot of exposed tight roots) then gently loosen with your hands some of the outside roots as to allow them to grow more easily in the surrounding compost. 
  1. Mix some of the Ericaceous compost in with the surrounding soil and put some in the bottom of the hole. Make sure the root ball is level with the compost. Firm in gently and water in well allowing the compost to settle in around the roots. 
  1. Rhododendrons and Azaleas like to be moist but not wet so a well drained site is essential. Do not allow the root ball or surrounding soil to dry out as this will stress the plant and if left to dry out in late summer could lead to buds not being formed and to lack of flowers in the spring. 
  1. You can feed from June-August using an Ericaceous feed following the instructions. 
  1. If any pruning is required do this just after flowering as not to disturb any new buds which form in late summer and do not allow plant to dry out at any time. 
  1. The reasons for mulching are to keep the roots cool in the summer and to prevent drying out and to protect them from sudden temperature changes in the winter as Rhododendrons and Azaleas have surface roots. This also helps to keep the weeds down. Spread around as wide as the top of the plant and keep at least an inch away from the trunk. This will stop the base of the trunk from rotting. You can use mulches such as course peat, pine needles, leaf mould or bark.

By Mark Jackson