Bought my first Rhododendron!

ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)May 15, 2014

It's called Roseum Elegans.

It was on Sunday, Mother's Day. Dh, 9yr old DD and I went to Home Depot to get concrete for DD's new swing set that took us ALL day to install (but that is a whole other story).

Anyway, as soon as we pulled in, the garden department caught my eye and I told dh and dd I would catch up with them later. I saw what I soon found out to be Rhododendrons. There were so many of them! I asked a guy standing there if he ever had one of them, and he proceeded to tell me ALL about his Rhodendrons around his house.

An elderly couple overheard our conversation, and walked over and told me about their Rhododendrons, and then another woman about my age heard us talking, walked over and told me all about how to care for them.

DH and DD walked up and saw me surrounded by all these people, and then he saw the Rhododenron on the flat cart I was holding onto. DD started laughing, because the day before I had just bought 2 huge Common Lilac bushes at our local nursery.

Dh's been a great sport about it. We're planting it on Sunday, the first day we can, since the weather has not been cooperating...

Everyone promised me huge blooms! And talk about Home Depot service....I asked the guy if my plant could be watered before we left and he walked over, grabbed the hose, and handed it to me, saying here you go......

Service like that can't be beat! :

This post was edited by ilovemytrees on Thu, May 15, 14 at 10:39

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

mine are in shade but for a few hours at dusk ... but very bright otherwise ...

i think of your scape as full blinding sun ...

they have a pH requirement... so do research that also ... if your soil is neutral ... you ought to be all set.. but if it favors the opposite pH... you may need to deal with that ...

mine took.. [and i do not know what mine is.. it was the ONLY flowering shrub on the 5 acres when i moved here.. lol .. but looking at pipx of your named plant.. it could be the same] ... anyway.. mine took a severe beating this winter ... every single leaf is singed/scorched [and thats isnt pretty on an evergreen] ... and i thought all the buds were killed... but they are looking like they are going to give it the college try soon ...

a glory of the shade garden ... not many flowering shrubs can beat the show stopping quality ... but slightly foo foo ... in a cold z5 ...

i wish you luck. as always


    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 10:48AM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

Hi Ken. I'm guessing since Maples prefer acidic soil, and maples are everywhere around here, that our soil is on the acidic side. I don't know for sure, since we've never had our soil tested...

All I know is we have rocky, sandy loam, moist, well-draining soil. We even have mushrooms in our backyard! And anytime we dig we see tons of worms..

I'm planting them in the front yard, which faces North. That part of the yard is definitely getting "crowded" with shrubs, but it's the only area that the voles haven't attacked. I feel "safe" planting there, even if it doesn't make perfect landscaping sense.

Dh said he doesn't know how anyone is going to get from the driveway to the front door, or to be able to get the mail because there's going to be no room to walk. I don't think it'll come to that....

We still have a tone of voles... They did well over the winter living off our Burning Bushes (RIP). Our Maine Coon cat is going bonkers day after day watching them go under our back porch. We've put out poison and we've set traps with peanut butter, but the sneaky critters are getting the peanut butter, without getting snapped. I don't get it. But until we get their population under control I'm not planting shrubs in the backyard, period...

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 12:21PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

My WAG is that your pH is around 7. That's too high for rhododendrons, so you really do need a soil test. If the pH is right, rhododendrons are as easy as weeds. If it isn't, they are challenging plants to grow. Maples aren't indicator plants of anything besides being in a somewhat cold place. Close neighbors with thriving rhododendrons or azaleas is a much better clue.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 6:28PM
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In addition to making sure the soil pH is right, add plenty of organic matter - conifer bark is excellent - to the planting area which should be wide but does not need to be any deeper than a foot. Organic matter should constitute 25 to 50% of the soil. Be sure to untangle the roots before planting. Failure to do this probably causes more difficulties with rhododendrons than any other cause. Use a forceful stream from a hose, a three prong type cultivator or both to pull the rootball apart. You will lose some roots by doing this, but pot grown rhododendrons will not send their roots into the new planting area unless you do it. Even though English Roseum is a tough and adaptable variety be sure to keep well watered the first two or three years, Some sort of wind shelter will also help for the first few winters.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 5:25AM
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And plant high! Rhodies are very shallowly surface rooted and the fastest way to send them to rhody heaven is to plant too deeply.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 1:05PM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

Hi everyone! I took the Rhododendron back to Home Depot today. I found out we don't have the right soil for it in the area that we live. I should have known since in my immediate area no one has any shrubs. I am the only one, and all I have right now are Forsythias.

I talked to our local Soil and Water Conservation Dept and the woman said that our area has no lime in the soil, because our area was covered under a glacier for so long. She mentioned a nearby county and said they have a nice layer of lime under their soil and can grow Rhododendrons easily..

She told me our local soil is not very acidic at all. She said that people who have Rhododendrons around here often add the ash from their pellet stoves/wood stoves to the soil around the plant to make it more acidic. While we do have a pellet stove that we use to heat our home in the winter, there is NO WAY we want to pollute our soil with burnt ash, especially just to keep a foo foo plant going. That is not the kind of commitment I am looking for in a plant.

The woman told me that I should buy "Pelletized Magnesium Lime", and to use a couple of cups of it for each Common Lilac shrub that we plant this weekend. We have 2 of them to plant. She said I will then have to add Lime each year by sprinkling some around the plant, which is no big deal.

She said Common Lilac are not that picky about their soil, and since my Forsythias grew 4 ft last year, she thinks my Lilacs will do fine too. She said that anyone who has Rhododendrons in our county has to work for them, because of the lack of acidity of our soil...

So either the people I met at Home Depot were all phony in their boasting how easy Rhododendrons are, or they all lived out of town. :I've never seen Lime before, and have no idea what I'm in for, but I'm excited to learn. She said that Home Depot and Tractor Supply will have the Magnesium Lime that I need. I hope so.

ETA: I wanted to add one last thing. 11 years ago, when we bought our house there was a HUGE Common Lilac bush in the backyard, all caught up in a chain link fence the prior owner had, which we tore down immediately after moving in. The shrub was such a mess! OMG! This was way before my love of planting had come to be, so dh and I thoughtlessly ripped the shrub out as we took down the fence, and we never thought another thing about it.. until now. The reason I bring it up is since that shrub grew under complete and utter neglect by the prior owner, that I think we have decent enough soil for it.

This post was edited by ilovemytrees on Fri, May 16, 14 at 15:57

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 3:39PM
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She told me our local soil is not very acidic at all. She said that people who have Rhododendrons around here often add the ash from their pellet stoves/wood stoves to the soil around the plant to make it more acidic.

Really?? Adding wood ash tends to make soil more alkaline, not acidic. I think your soil conservation person is seriously under or misinformed as lime/limestone does exactly the same thing - lime is applied to counteract soil acidity, not increase it.

The best thing you can do is have your soil properly tested for pH and proceed from there. Most plants have a rather wide tolerance range of pH with the bulk leaning towards the slightly to moderately acidic. Rhodies too are rather tolerant of pH variation.......WA state (rhododendrons are the state flower) has only moderately acidic soils yet these plants and many other Ericacea grow very comfortably here without amending.

Also look for dolomite lime - this is calcium magnesium carbonate - a common soil amendment and proper balance between calcium and magnesium. Also the most common way this substance is referred to. DO NOT apply any sort of lime unless you know you need to. And only a soil pH test can confirm that. Amendments should never be added unless you know they are necessary.....and taking the advice of someone who obviously doesn't have a clue what they are talking about is not a very sound basis for making that determination.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 7:32PM
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Just to echo gardengal48's comment, the information you were given by the Soil and Water Conservation person is ridiculously inaccurate. Glaciation has nothing to do with soil pH at all. Areas overlying limestone will tend to have alkaline soil, those over granite and other igneous bedrock will tend to be acidic. How much ice once covered it is completely irrelevant. A geologic map of your area - probably available online - will show what sort of bedrock you have. If it's really limestone free, you probably have acid soil and rhododendrons would grow just fine. A simple pH test will confirm whatever the map shows, In the future, you'd be better off addressing gardening questions to your County Extension Service or state agriculture department. Who knows what disasters are being perpetuated by a Soil and Conservation Department operating with this level of ignorance.

Dolomitic limestone is a common recommendation for lilacs growing in areas where the pH is too low for their optimal growth.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 6:10AM
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Go back to the HD and buy it again. plant it in the most sheltered part of your garden, plant high as said before, and amend soil but not too much. You will love it. Add some cottonseed meal every year.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:05AM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

Well, I looked up 2 surveys that were done on our soil, over the years, and in my specific area the soil is anywhere from mildly acidic to extremely acidic. Which goes against everything that woman said at the Soil and Water Conservation Dept. I now know, after reading what Gardengal and akamainegrower have said that she was a bit of a dingaling.

I now figure I can grow Rhododendrons.I will probably wait til next year to get them though...

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 1:10PM
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