Help in planting a rhododendron.

miriah(z5MI)November 11, 2005

My mother is moving in the spring next year and lucky me, seriously, get all the plants she wants to save. She has a beautiful rhododendron bush she wants me to take. I have always heard that these do best on the north side of the house. Is this true and why. I am not able to plant things on the north side of the house because of the dogs. Can I plant them on the north side of a privacy fence? I want this bush to perform for her so want it to be planted in the best possible spot.

Thank you.


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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Miriah, it's so mild here that I don't have to be particularly concerned with siting, but from the book -

"A northern exposure is the safest location for rhododendron in minimizing winter injury.

Eastern exposures are generally successful and particularly so where mornings are often overcast. In the eastern US however, early morning sun in winter can damage frozen leaves and buds by thawing them too rapidly. If cold climate gardeners provide some early morning shelter, eastern exposures can be satisfactory.

A location facing west provides adequate sun and shade ratios, the problem here is afternoon heat. Rhododendrons backed by shrubs or trees may succeed, where those against a west facing wall will burn.

Southern exposures are almost always too hot unless you live in a fog belt."

You must take the wind pattern in your garden into consideration too - too much wind will increase transpiration rates to the point where roots cannot supply additional water as fast as leaves are losing it. This is especially important in areas where soil freezes in winter.

General siting suggestion - the larger the leaves of your rhododendron, the more shelter (sun, both summer and winter, also wind) it will require.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 6:55PM
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Thank you so much. This bush has small leaves and is about 3 ft. tall and wide. I guess I will have to really walk my area here around the house to find the right spot. I get terrible north and west winds so I may have to put it by my pine tree and winter protect it. At least in that place it will be shaded from the hottest sun.
Thank you again.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 10:17PM
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Miriah, on the other hand, I have 8 ft R. Maximas that are in almost full filtered sun from nearby deciduous trees and do beautifully. I might get around to watering them once in a summer. They get the direct afternoon summer and winter sun and do great. I don't use wilt-pruf but I do use Hollytone in the winter time and throw mulch into the thicket - which is very dense. However... they are probably 20 years old and very well established. The recommendations are really filtered shade, morning sun or high shade. Blazing hot sun won't do. MorZ8 is in WA which is really a different climate. Coastal WA has the benefit of a misty more cool environment that Rhodos love. I'd suggest you call a good nursery in your area or your county extension agent. MI summers can be very hot, sunny and humid, thats why a northern exposure might be ideal. Rhodos like coolish, dampish and not super strong sun. They also can't sit in water. The reason for all this is that they don't sink deep root systems but tend to remain closer to the surface. So if they are stressed by too strong sun or too dry soil, they can't go deep to seek moisture to support all those evergreen leaves.

Also, you don't mention the variety and may not know. Some really do like more light than others. I may be in a similar zone in NE Ohio and rhodos do well here in everything from the sunny middle of peoples front yards to the center of dense woods. They will usually bloom a little better with more light.

This is pretty subjective, but think about where the plant is now and just try your best to duplicate the conditions. Everyone here will tell you to water it well, and I'd go back on warmer days during the winter and water consistently so it doesn't dry out. You may want to protect it with wilt pruf and burlap its first year since it sounds like a larger plant. You should definitely take as much root ball as you can, and mulch after freezing to help it avoid heaving.

I've got azaleas that had been in the ground for 5 years that heaved in a winter that had a lot of freezing and thawing - the root systems weren't deep enough to anchor them.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 7:24AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

If your prevailing winter winds are from the north and west, I would plant on the east side. You want to protect from winter sun and winter wind. However too much spring and summer shade is not good either.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 11:00PM
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