PJM Rhododendrons dying???

fescuephil(PA)May 2, 2005

Reading area...

The were planted last summer (4), and did well, they recently flowered and I noticed most of the leaves on all of the have fallen off. The remianing ones have seemed to begun browning.

Is this common, they got a decent amount of rain recetnly, and I don't let them go more than a week without water.

In shade on side of house, the soil is a bit clay, but I not were I planted them (dug that out and put potting soil there). It should drain well, on a slope.

Suggetstions, advise?


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I [put miracle grow in gray & blue box for this problem.Do it about once a week till you see improvement.I saved alot of bushes using that..

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 7:04PM
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hardrockkid(z6 (PA))

A couple thoughts come to mind:

1) Did you prepare the rootball before planting? Most rhodies tend to be pretty well rootbound in their pots... and the fine feeder roots are unable to penetrate the bound mass. Plant then strangles itself. Very important to slice that rootball before planting -- although if that was the problem, my guess would be that you would have seen them doing poorly sooner.

2) Some knowledgeable people discourage replacing clay soil in the hole around a new plant. Water won't move well from the one soil type to the other... and especially with your new stuff being potting soil (which probably has alot of vermiculite and really holds the water), the plant ends up sitting in a bathtub. Since you mention a "decent amount" of rain recently, I wonder about this being the problem.

3) Try posting in the rhody/azalea forum. There's some folks there that know one hailofalot about those plants. Including one from PA who is pretty active there (MRDan) (at least, MRDan was around last I knew).

Good luck with 'em!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 10:40AM
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hardrockkid(z6 (PA))

You know, I'm going to be a bit stronger in my suggestion. Do go ahead and ask in the rhody forum, but...

I think you should dig them all up. I don't think applying fertilizer is going to help. Dig them up, and have a look at those rootballs. You may find that they are still perfectly shaped like the pot they were in (I been there and done that!).

If so, slice the rootballs. I can describe how to do this if you want to know.

Then get the potting soil out of there. If you want to improve the clay, I suggest mixing some peat and some compost with the native soil, and replant with that.

I really think one or both of the above is the problem, and if you don't dig and remedy now, you will lose them.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 11:01AM
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The miracle grow in gray box isnt just fertilizer its for plants that need acid soil such as rhodies ,azaleas,pine type.Thats why I suggested it

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 4:29PM
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billie_ann(6b PA)

bulldinkie, When a plant is sick or dying fertilizer isn't going to fix the problem. You have to figure out what's wrong. If it's poor drainage or rootbound from the pot, fertilizer won't help.
The lastest recommendation for planting is to dig your hole, scratch the soil on the sides of the hole, loosen the roots, place in planting hole and back fill with native soil. No potting soil or additives. Since it sounds like you're losing them anyway, try digging one up as Hardrock suggested and check the roots and the condition of the hole. Good luck. Billie

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 8:52PM
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I was just told two days ago that these plants actually like it a little drier than most. I think I killed mine by overwatering. The clay soil really holds the water so I feel like this is probably accurate. I love them so I will try again and do the root slicing thing as well as watering less.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2005 at 11:29PM
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Thanks for the responses. I looked at them more closely, there just aren't alot of leaves and when the flowers were up they all but hide the leaves. I guess I expected a more 'green' bush.

When is a good time to prune to encourage more denser growth, they are pretty scrawny. Any tips on pruning?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 7:40AM
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Just my thoughts...

1) Rhodies often get planted next to house foundations. Foundations are loaded with cement/concrete, which in turn is loaded with lime, from limestone, which is alkaline. The alkalinity leaches into the soil nearby. Rhodies love acidic soil, do some amending.

2) If you have anything resembling decent drainage, it would be hard to over-water. If your soil is seriously compacted, do some amending. Pick your favorite organic material, and have at it.

3) Sorry for not knowing the precise name, but there is some pathogen that has been blighting Rhodies, especially in PA. I've heard of healthy long-living and huge rhodies that have been lost to this. Check your nearest PSU Co-op Extension.

4) I can't swear to this, mostly because I've never tried it, but some say you can prune Rhodies right back to the ground, and with some TLC they'll rebound over time. Please try this at your own peril, I have no idea if it's legit.

Most of all, good luck!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 8:45AM
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I have very clay soil I can't grow the larger rhododendron but the smaller ones and azaleas also my pieris all do fine as long as I dig in some peat around it monthly during growing season. Patty

    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 7:09AM
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