The Q&A Archives: Nova Zembla Rhododendron

Question: My husband and I just purchased a Nova Zembla Rhododendron for our flower bed in front of our house and it was flowering, but all the flowers seem to look shriveled up and as if they are dying. We just planted it last Saturday. Some of the leaves have some brown on them. We have been watering it every evening around 5:30pm and I'm not sure what do to. We have never had our own flowers to take care of. Is this normal or should we do something else? I'm afraid we are going to loose the rhododendron.

Answer: It is perfectly normal for newly transplanted trees and shrubs to go through a period of stress after they're planted. They look pathetic for a few weeks until the roots become well established. During this period they can drop flowers and leaves and look otherwise unhealthy so don't be overly concerned. You're complicating the process by watering daily - overly wet soils can suffocate the roots. Here's what to do: Expect the flowers to dry up and die prematurely; don't expect any unopened flower buds to open; expect some yellowing of leaves and some leaf drop. As soon as the plant adjusts, it will replace lost leaves and put out healthy new growth.

To help your plant adjust, water deeply once each week. The best way to accomplish this is to make a watering basin or waterin well beneath the plant. Do this by mounding up a few inches of soil in a circle beneath the plant, about 12" away from the trunk or main stems. Fill this basin with water, allow to drain, then fill it a second time. Do this once a week. Watering in this way will concentrate the water over the root zone and allow it to trickle down, wetting the entire root mass.

Best wishes with your new rhododendron!

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