rhody from nursery has shallow, fine roots
When I brought this rhody home from the nursery, I thought it had to be root-bound. I was very surprised when I lifted it out of the pot.
Right out of the pot, in moist potting soil, this somewhat dry-looking rhody had no root ball, just a 3-4" soft layer of just enough filamentous root to hold some soil.
This rhody doesn't look great, but it doesn't look really sick. There are a few dead leaves, or parts of leaves, and the foliage and buds do look and feel dry, leathery. The buds, which should be close to blooming, feel almost hollow.
I followed the thread for root rot, but I don't know whether this is likely to be root rot. All the example photos look much worse than this one.
Is there any particular set of steps I can go through to diagnose and save this nice rhody? I've never seen a woody plant like this, straight from the nursery, that didn't have a tough twisted bundle of roots filling out the pot all the way to the bottom.
I'm hoping that the plant, which looks pretty good, is making a sacrifice of the buds for this year as it struggles to recover from some insult. Is there a way to support root growth while I nurse it through? Or is it a poor prognosis when there is no strong root system? What should I say to the nursery, if anything?