rhodo seaview sunset - Illustration by Helen KrayenhoffImagine your garden filled with large trusses of brilliantly-hued flowers framed in large shiny and richly green leaves. As you enter, soft aromas of spice and sweet float up to meet your nose. Rhododendrons can provide such color, stature, and even fragrance to most shady gardens.

The secret to keeping healthy Rhododendrons is growing them in consistently moist well-draining acidic soil. Planting in a partial sun location will help to keep soil adequately moist with biweekly watering. If possible wet the leaves when watering to help keep thrips at bay. In areas with poor-draining soil plant your Rhododendron on a two inch mound and amend the native soil with E.B. Stone Acid Planting Mix. Keep roots cool by mulching with a 2 inch layer of bark, being careful not to bury the trunk.

Feed Rhododendrons twice a year; once after blooming and again in late August. Feeding too late in the year will result in flower buds morphing into leaf buds. Use an acid plant food such as G&B Organics Rhododendron, Azalea & Camellia Fertilizer. Avoid using any type of manure as it can burn their sensitive roots.

This winter Berkeley Hort has a good selection of 1 and 3 gallon Rhododendrons. Following are a few of my favorites:

Tall Timber
A large narrow upright Rhododendron growing up to 8 ft. Clear vibrant purple flowers.

Honey Butter
Multi-hued red, orange and pink flowers form in dome-shaped trusses. A slightly mounding plant reaching 5 ft.

Else Frye
Powerfully fragrant scent similar to nutmeg and lily. Large white and pink trumpet-shaped flowers have golden centers.

Seaview Sunset
Golden yellow flowers edged in coral. A small compact plant growing to 3 ft.

Happy Planting to All!