Rhododendrons and Azaleas: Low Maintenance Easy Care Shrubs
Rhododendrons and azaleas are found in many settings in the Pacific Northwest. They are very easy care, low maintenance shrubs that add a dramatic touch of texture and color to the landscape.
Azaleas and rhododendrons in the wild prefer the rich, loamy acid soil found on the forest floor. They thrive on an organic mulch of needles, leaves and twigs that keep their root zones moist and shaded. Some protection is needed from the heat of the sun, yet sunlight stimulates heavy flower production.
To provide the best care possible for rhododendrons and azaleas in the landscape, duplicate the needs they’ve shown from living in their natural range.
Potted rhododendrons and azaleas may be planted any time of year. Remember to loosen the root ball enabling the plant to stretch and spread its roots. Plant in a richly composted garden soil in a well drained area. When packing the soil around the root ball, keep the crown above the level of the ground. This practice will aid in good drainage. Root systems of rhododendrons and azaleas are fairly shallow. After planting your rhodie or azalea, mulch with leaf mold, needles or barkdust. This will hinder weed growth and keep the soil cool and moist. Any weeds that do come up should be pulled by hand because the root system is so near the top of the soil that mechanical tools could damage the plant.
Rhododendrons and azaleas are not heavy feeders. If they are healthy and producing nice flowers, a little acid base fertilizer should be applied once a year.
If a large plant is desired, a higher nitrogen fertilizer should be given after the plan is done blooming. This is when the natural growth takes place and will allow time for the new growth to harden before any severe winter weather conditions arrive.
After fertilizing in the spring; water well until early August. Begin tapering off the water at this time to prepare the plant for winter extremes. The only exception would be a new planting which would need continued water to further establish the root system before winter.
Consider growing rhododendrons and azaleas in containers on the deck or patio. They are attractive, adding a variety of form, color and textures to the landscape. The soil in the planter should be 75 percent organic matter and 25 percent good garden loam.
Rhododendrons and azaleas come in many colors from whites and pinks, to reds, oranges and lavender. Varieties can be purchased in bloom from February through the spring and summer, and into fall.