The Q&A Archives: Rhododendron

Question: An old rhodo had branches that grew to the ground and rooted. I separated these branches from the old bush and planted them elsewhere. This old bush that was located in a wooded area never bloomed. My question is what special care do these cuttings (some of them are quite large) need to bring them to good health and bloom. Thank you.

Answer: If your old plant never bloomed it was probably too shady where it was planted, and/or possibly you pruned it at the wrong time (buds are set the year before and overwinter on the plant, so the best time to prune is in early summer right after it blooms) and/or possibly the buds on that variety are not winter hardy in your area. To optimize blooming you want vigorously healthy plants; they need a bright location with some direct sun (dappled light may be enough but if it is pretty dark in your woodland you may need to selectively remove a few tree branches to allow a bit more sun to penetrate or plant your babies in a spot with morning sun), protection from the winter winds, and a year round mulch of organic matter several inches thick. In addition to the rotting mulch which will feed the soil, you could also top dress each spring with a good quality compost and possibly use a general purpose granular or slow release fertilizer such as 10-10-10 per the label instructions. For a more detailed fertilizer/soil recommendation you would need to run some basic soil tests. Your local county extension should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results. Good luck with your new cuttings!

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