Rhododendron needs some help and advice!

jessfoster99May 30, 2014

I have had a few rhododendrons for a couple of years and they have generally done fairly well. I am afraid that the harsh winter that we had in Ontario this year might have done some pretty severe damage to them though. The leaves are pale, slightly wilted and have fairly significant brown spots on them. I do see the start of a few new blooms though, so I'm taking that as an encouraging sign. If anyone has some advise about how to treat them and encourage healthy growth and blooms, that would be much appreciated. I am a pretty 'beginner' gardener, but keen to learn. I have used bone meal, but am thinking maybe I need to fertilize and perhaps increase watering??
Thank you, Jessica

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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Don't fertilize stressed shrubs/trees. Give it time -- at least a year -- to recover from your winter's assaults.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 1:23AM
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The new growth - which consists of emerging leaves, not flower buds - is an encouraging sign. Anything you can do to avoid any kind of stress over the summer will help. This means mulching well and watering when it's needed. Protecting with evergreen boughs or a burlap screen next winter will also help.

As for fertilizing, the "don't fertilize stressed plants" should not be regarded as some sort of iron clad stricture. It depends. If, for example, a soil test indicates the lack of an important element such as nitrogen, that is part of the stress the plant is experiencing and should be corrected. Don't fertilize without first testing the soil, but if the test indicates a need, using a slow acting organic based fertilizer is a good, even necessary, practice.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 6:21AM
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Thank you so much for your feedback. Very helpful. Testing the soil is something that I will definitely look into.
Would pruning the rhododendron back a little help it's overall health in your opinion?
I do recall seeing a lot of similar new growth on these plants last summer, but only had a few actual flowering blooms.
I have posted an additional picture if that helps any.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 2:47PM
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Pruning back is not likely to help in any significant way. It's not clear if the plant set flower buds which failed to open or if it did not set many in the first place. If it was the first, winter cold is the likely culprit. If the second, too little sun, not mature enough, too much nitrogen are all possibilities.

All in all and considering how hard last winter was, this rhododendron looks pretty good.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 5:48AM
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