Newbie seeks planting location advice Purpureum Elegans

actuary(6a)April 23, 2010

I bought a small evergreen rhododendron from the supermarket. I don't think rhododendrons often do that well in my area but I couldn't resist.

Can someone suggest which of the following might be the best location?

a) against north side of house

b) out on east lawn of house under tall spruce tree with quite high lower branches. Also partly shaded by some deciduous trees. Soil seems best here (loosest)

c) out on north lawn of house under a large manitoba maple or Ash tree, with some other smaller deciduous trees to the West of it.

Any other tips welcome as well. Thanks!

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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Pupureum Elegance is one of the old Iron Clad hybrids, so it should be fully hardy for you. In general, a good amount of morning sun and dappled afternoon shade is ideal.Some shade from winter sun is also ideal. The trouble with planting close to trees is the competition from the tree roots for moisture and nutrients. If you're willing to water the rhododendron to compensate, it will do well even with this competition as long as the trees are limbed up so the shade is not overly dense.

Some areas of Ontario have extensive underlying limestone bedrock which makes the soil too alkaline for rhododendrons. If that's the reason rhododendrons don't do well in your area, you'll have to see what you can do to provide a more acid planting medium.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 5:37AM
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Thanks mainegrower. I'm just establishing a garden over the last couple of years so I'm fine with watering so I think near a tree may be ok then. Also my particular area does not have the limestone issue, fortunately.

I'm tending to think the area under the spruce tree might be good but there would be some sun on sunny winter mornings still. The north side of house would be less sunny but I find it can be windy. And also maybe it is just too shaded. Do you think I should be more concerned about too much sun or too much wind in the winter?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 9:14AM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

As long as you're not planting in dense shade under the spruce limbs, that should be a good location. As for the too much sun, too much wind question, I'd avoid an obviously windy spot. Cold plus wind is much harder on rhododendrons than cold alone. Winter sun can easily be moderated for a new, small rhododendron (first two winters is a good idea) with a burlap screen. Too little sun means reduced blossoming, but intense afternoon sun and heat should be avoided.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 2:43PM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

actuary: Meant to add this as a PS. I don't know where you are in Ontario, but the Niagara Peninsula has been a center for rhododendron research and hybridization for many years. The Vineland research center released a number of hybrids all with "Vine" in their names. I'm still growing some of these. Rhodoland nursery also continues to do a lot of hybridization as far as I know. There's also an active chapter of the American Rhododendron Society in this area - maybe other places as well.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 3:52PM
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Thanks again. I'm located East of Toronto near Lake Ontario whereas the Niagara region is southwest of Toronto. Yes that area is known for successfully growing a lot of things!

My own yard suffers from a lot of clay which I am continually amending which does help. I did go ahead and finally plant my little rhododendron, and I mean little. I decided it looked best on the north side of the house where it seemed to suit the yard best and also I think it will get the right type of sun in summer and hopefully not much at all in winter. Though I had hoped not to, I'll try the burlap screen thing in winter since it is such a little thing.

I've always wanted to grow one of these ever since I visited England in June years ago. The continuously bleak rainy weather was really oppressive until I encountered an English estate with what seemed to be acres of rhododendrons all in glorious bloom. Needless to say my mood instantly improved.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 10:33PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Don't forget there are three important things to remember in selecting a site for rhododendrons: drainage, drainage and drainage.

Once you have that, as maingrower said, high shade, some sun, acidic soil, and protection from strong winter winds are desirable.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to care for rhododendrons and azaleas.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 10:16AM
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