Care & Cultivation Guide: Rhododendrons

A large and spectacular group of shrubs which flower mainly from April until June.  The growth and leaf size vary enormously from dwarf, alpine types to large tree forms and because of this diversity there is a rhododendron or azalea for most gardens. The more compact varieties are ideal for growing in pots. If grouped together on a large scale, they make a fantastic display. This can also be achieved on a smaller scale with the more compact varieties.

PLANTING: Generally, the smaller the foliage, the more sun tolerant and so an open and sunny site is ideal. The big leaved species and hybrids are woodland plants and so require more shelter from wind and sun. Incorporate Composted Bark, planting compost or leaf mould into the soil. Never use spent mushroom compost as this contains lime. Avoid planting too close to established trees and shrubs which may take all the moisture from the soil. Ensure the soil is sufficiently well-drained to prevent water logging in winter. A small amount of fertiliser is beneficial but should be avoided if the planting compost already contains fertiliser.

SOIL: Rhododendrons are acid loving and prefer a well-drained soil with a pH of 4.5 to 6 but can be grown satisfactorily in neutral soils (up to pH 7). Rhododendrons require LIME-FREE soil.

CARE: Rhododendrons and azaleas are fairly low maintenance if they are grown in a suitable site. Newly planted Rhododendrons should receive a light fertiliser dressing in early March and again after flowering. Water well, particularly after first planting. Many Rhododendrons originate from areas of high rainfall, such as the Himalayas, where rainfall can exceed 190cm between May and September, compared to an annual British average of 75cm, so a long soak weekly is better than a light daily sprinkle. Rainwater is best, but tap water is better than no water.

The range of plants consists of:

Hardy Hybrid Rhododendron – Traditional larger growing types with large showy flowers.

Dwarf Rhododendron – Smaller growing and more compact plants that are ideal for rockeries and containers.

Deciduous Azaleas – A wide variety of flower colours, many scented. Some have good autumn foliage colour too.

Evergreen Azaleas – Lovely small shrubs with bright, vibrant flowers.

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information given both on our lists and labels. However, some details may vary according to special or geographical circumstances. Varieties offered are subject to availability.

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