The Q&A Archives: Sick Rhododendren

Question: Last year we fertilized our rhododendrens with Miracid. We initially wanted to feed them b/c we had just bought our house and the plants looked needy. However as the summer progressed one of the two rhodos started to deterioriate. We were told it needed acid so we refertilized. The plant's leaves turned dark brown at the ends and started to curl. We also had a terrible drought last summer followed by Floyd. The plant looked terrible and we decided to leave it alone to see what would happen this spring. It recently took a turn for the worse and we removed it. Now our other large rhodo is starting to turn. The leaves are darkening and curling sporadically. It's not an eyesore just yet but we are afraid that's where it's heading. Is there anything I can do to save this plant? Please help!

Answer: Based on your description I would suspect a disease problem, possibly exacerbated by poor soil drainage conditions and of course the stress from the drought while the plants were trying to become established. You might want to take a sample to your county extension (285-4630) for a more specific diagnosis and suggested remedies. In the meantime, pick up and remove any fallen leaves or stems and put them in the trash to try to reduce the reinfection rate. You might also want to run some basic soil tests and see if your soil is naturally acid enough for these plants, or how much soil amendment is needed to accommodate them. In addition to an acid soil, they also need to have a humusy soil that is evenly moist and yet well drained. Your county extension can help you with the tests and interpreting the results, as well.

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