The Q&A Archives: Why Rhododendron Blooms May Fail to Open

Question: My rhododendron seems to be ill. The blooms have never opened and just drooped and look like they are ready to fall off. I did apply some good rhodie mix soil supplement around the base of the plant recently. It does get spray misted every other dayand I'm told that it may not like that. It lives in the shade of a pine tree and I don't know if that is good, bad or indifferent. Thanks for any thoughts that you might have. Connie Ross Forestville, CA

Answer: I am wondering how long your rhododendron has been in that spot, and how it has fared in years past. Rhododendrons are particular about their location and soil. The require a moist, humusy, but very well-drained soil. They have very delicate feeder roots that will drown in wet soil. They also require, as you know, an acid soil, and they won't tolerate much salinity. In fact, they don't even like to be watered with an alkaline water! Since your whole bush is affected, I'm guessing it's an environmental factor. But if all these environmental factors have been satisfied, it's time to consider pests--disease or insect problems. Look closely at your leaves and buds to see if there is any sign of pest damage--holes, fuzzy spots, etc. There are several diseases in particular that will cause buds to fail to open. If you can describe any other symptoms we may be able to help you more. Or contact your county Extension agent for likely pests in your region.

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