The Q&A Archives: Dying PJM Rhododendrums

Question: We had six new PJM Rhododendrums planted this Spring, and four of the six really look bad (dried-up brown leaves) and the other two look great. They are all planted against the front of the house with a Northern exposure. Our landscapers said the four were over-watered, but we watered all six the same. There is limited new growth on the four that look bad, but they are thinned out and brownish. We were told to wait until Spring and that they will probably come back. How should we try to maintain (save) these?

Answer: First of all, I would suggest you work with your county extention to determine more specifically what has caused the discoloration. Overwatering can cause it, and sometimes overwatering can happen due to a difference in the soil in the bed or differences in the drainage pattern within the bed, or due to inconsistencies in the irrigation system, for example. But there are also some diseases that can cause discoloring, as could poor rooting, or even planting too deeply. Once you know the reason you will be able to decide how to proceed. Unfortunately it is very difficult to diagnose this type of problem long distance.

In the meantime, avoid wetting the foliage unnecessarily. Clean up and remove any fallen foliage. Provide a layer of natural mulch over the root area; it should be applied in a flat layer several inches deep and should not touch the stems. Do not fertilize them now, and water only as needed to keep the soil slightly damp. Plan on erecting a wind barrier for them this winter. Check with your extension as soon as you can in case it is something that you can treat. Good luck with your rhodies!

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