Rhododendrun dropping leaves
I've recently inherited a mature rhodie that grows against the house facing east/southeast. It's shaded by tall trees in my front yard on the other side of a narrow clearing so I doubt it gets much direct sun. It's been there for years and according to the prior owner it blooms reliably.
I've noticed recently is that it is sloughing a lot of lower leaves which turn yellow and drop. Is that normal behavior for a rhodie in hot dry weather? I also cleared out a lot of dead wood from the interior. My gardening friend is recommending that I fertilize it with Hollytone but I'm holding off because fertilizing a stressed plant doesn't seem like a good idea to me. I can improve the mulch though, and I can give it a good water every week. Will this help it? Should I fertilize? Barbara Damrosch of Garden Primer fame recommends liquid fertilizer in spring and fall (she doesn't say anything about mid-summer). I'd appreciate a product recommendation too. How about mixing up a couple of gallons of half-strength fertilizer solution and pouring it directly around the plant? Thanks so much. I want to do all I can for it.