The Q&A Archives: Rhododendron Site

Question: I have 5 Rhodo's (same kinds) planted fairly close together (approximately 2-3 apart). The one in the middle died. I planted another Rhodo (same kind, same site) and it died. The others are doing OK. What's the deal? Should I dig up the site and amend it? The Rhodo does well the first year, but over the winter it wilts (leaves fold up) and then never recovers. It seems that the other Rhodo's also "wilt" during the winter--especially when it gets really cold, but they perk back up when the weather turns warmer at various times during the winter. In the spring they are OK. The one that dies, stays all folded up and when I check it: it's dead.

Answer: Rhododendrons are especially susceptible to "winter burn". They need protection from the winter sun and wind because their shallow root systems usually do not penetrate the frost line and they cannot take up water when the ground is frozen. They should be sprayed with an antitranspirant, such as Wilt-Pruf, in late fall. Also, give them a good watering every two weeks until the ground freezes. Then lay down a 4-6" layer of mulch. Reapply the antitranspirant after a month or two. You can also wrap each plant in burlap for added protection if they are in a partucularly open site.

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