My bare root rhododendrons look bad

aliska12000(Z5)May 22, 2006

I ordered and planted some bare root rhododendrons from a tree conservation place. When they came, and the roots were wrapped and very moist, I immediately unpacked them and put all my plants from that shipment in a couple buckets of water, had the bed prepared. After about 5 hours, I planted them all right away as fast as I could, not taking them out of the bucket until I was ready to place them in the hole, watered and mulched them all. The leaves looked split, twisted and dry when they came even though the roots were nice and moist and look worse now about a week or so later. I gave them one dose of Miracid and read that I should not overwater them.

Of that shipment, only my azalea, pussy willow and forsythia look like they will take hold. The pink dogwood looks dead and doesn't have any swollen buds. I had a failure with a burlap or potted dogwood years ago. I gave the new ones (azalea, dogwood, and rhodo) the Miracid (one tbsp to one gal water), too.

Is there any hope that the roots will establish and that they will put out new growth buds?

If they don't, I don't think I want to try any more bare rooted ones from that place although they offered to replace them if they didn't grow. I had three little PJM rhododendrons many years ago and they did very well in that spot, but finally died. They were potted when I purchased them, and I gave them regular doses of Miracid until the last years. Maybe that's why they finally failed.

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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Miracid can be more of a problem than a solution. It is a high nitrogen fertilizer and this tends to promote new top growth. On a plant that is struggling to establish roots, new top growth is the last thing that it needs.

The second problem I see is that is is quite late for bare root plants. They are usually sent out in April when still dormant.

You were right in putting them in a bucket of water and planting them quickly. If the roots dry out, the plant is dead. I have never dealt with bare root rhododendrons, just conifers. I don't know of many places that deals in bare root rhododendrons. It is somewhat unusual.

Rhododendrons have many special cultural requirements. They like some shade, especially bare root plants. They need a moist well drained acidic soil. The link below goes into more detail into their cultural needs.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to Grow Rhododendrons

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 10:09AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I have never seen a bare root rhododendron either; that must have presented some challenges in planting, particularly planting depth.

Fertilizing at planting time is discouraged for rhododendrons, in fact, fertilizing other than to address specific symptoms isn't necessary. If you have the correct type of soil, loose, high in organic's hard to overwater a newly planted rhododendron. If you weather is warm, they may even need daily water right now - whatever is needed to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 2:25PM
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You also don't say where in country you are, either in this message or in your profile. In my part of the country, New England, rhodies grow native and their requirements are easily met - I plant them in native soil and they thrive. In the midwest where I grew up, the soil was high pH clay and rhodies tended to decline, either slowly or quickly, and eventually die unless given an entire bed (usually a raised bed) of amended soil so that it is more acid and well-drained.

Rhodyman's link will I'm sure give you details for successfully growing in places where the native soil isn't likely to give rhodies what they need.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 8:01PM
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I missed the followups to my post and apologize for that (hard to keep track sometimes). Years ago, I successfully grew PJM rhododendrons in the same spot on the north side of the house. They lasted several years, kids were growing up and think they got things plopped on them outside the back door and/or trampled. Nothing has been planted there since, and I wanted my rhododendrons back. The PJM came in pots and don't get terribly large. They were expensive for the time, still are, in pots.

I will watch the water and hope that the roots take hold and new growth starts to show. I'm not sure when to give up on them, will leave them there awhile.

The place I ordered them from said they would replace them, but I don't want any more bare rooted rhododendrons. Some plants are ok. My azalea, another tricky one, seems to be looking good, but they grow slowly so it will be awhile before I know if it is happy where I put it. Most of the azaleas around here are the orange or coral ones. Mine is supposed to be pink.

Oh, I am in eastern Iowa. Many people around here successfully grow rhododendrons. Some get to bet huge, usually the large purple variety come to think of it. I think some varieties would not do well in my area.

Thanks for all the info the the link.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 12:26PM
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