Trees and Shrubs forum: My rhododendron looks unhappy

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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Jul 26, 2014 8:22 AM CST
I planted this last fall and it looked great this spring, even grew some new leaves. It stayed green over the winter. But the past month I have noticed its stems turning a yellow/brown color and some leaves falling off. I thought it just needed more water, but I have been watering it everyday with water from my fish bucket and it still looks puny. I have a sneaky suspicion it is slowly kicking the bucket. Is there anything I can do? It is planted under a large Hemlock tree. It does not get any real direct sun, but it does get some bright light. Any tips will be appreciated!


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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jul 28, 2014 9:38 AM CST
You can overwater a plant in the ground, just like a plant in a pot. I would doubt it's getting dry enough to need water every day.

The Rhodie and hemlock might not be getting along. Didn't read any of these links, but 47,000 results would lead me to want to investigate further.
https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=hemlock+allelopathy
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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Jul 28, 2014 2:51 PM CST
Well the dirt there is dry and powdery. The plant was only in a quart pot when I planted it and it didn't have much roots. It has been in the 90s here for a couple weeks with no rain. So I just assume it needs watered pretty much everyday with not having a good root structure yet. I read through a little of that, it is pretty meaty reading. Seems like some say so and some say not... like usual-clear as mud, ha ha. I took from that over all that the hemlock produces some sort of chemical that prevents other hemlocks from thriving around it. Any seeds that germinate die around the original tree. I was unclear on other vegetation growing around the hemlock-different opinions on that maybe. I'm not sure what to think, now the other rhodie planted about 8 ft away is looking puny too. I did plant some hosta there and some look ok and others look puny. Maybe the tree is just sapping too much moisture out of the area. I just don't know what to think except that this is the only shade in my yard really! and the hemlock is beautiful.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jul 29, 2014 7:50 AM CST
Hopefully someone familiar with the allelopathy of hemlocks will see this. You read more about it than I did already. If the crux is that hemlocks are poisonous to some other kinds of plants, there should be a list of those known to be sensitive just like there are lists of plants sensitive to the juglone of walnut trees. If hemlocks are only poisonous to others of their own kind, that shouldn't be a factor in any struggles your other plants might be having.

I might try backing off to watering every other day and see how it goes. The less you coddle a plant, the more quickly it can become self-sufficient.

Yes, a tree can be very greedy about moisture. You can drastically improve the soil by periodically adding organic matter to the surface, whatever you have, whenever it presents itself. Material like kitchen scraps, grass from mower bag (whenever you mow before grass has made seeds,) leaves, pine needles, actual compost, more mulch (though may not be necessary, depending on whatever else you might have available to use "as mulch.") In a surprisingly short amount of time, this will help prevent moisture loss through evaporation, allow water to soak in more easily and deeply when it does rain, and add tilth and fertility to the soil. Looks like a mulch is in place already, which is good, keep adding to it!

More about soil improvement:
http://permaculturenews.org/2013/09/20/soil-not-dirt-dr-elai...

There was nothing but hard-as-a-rock ground under loose sand around these trees a few years ago. It was so hard, it wasn't possible for me to dig a hole. I've been adding organic matter to this spot and the change is dramatic! It's not hard to dig at all, and the soil is dark, plants don't get thirsty unless it doesn't rain for a few weeks.
Thumb of 2014-07-29/purpleinopp/9e518f

Another example from when I used to live in OH. This spot was in baking sun all day, but just a year after covering with mulch and tons of fall leaves, I didn't need to lug the hose around except for the potted plants:
Thumb of 2014-07-29/purpleinopp/8afefe

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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 29, 2014 7:56 AM CST
well your photos look promising, thanks for the encouragement. I did put a thin layer of bark mulch around the area, was afraid to put too much for smothering the tree. Maybe I should add some more. Might add some shredded leaves this fall to help out. I have those.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jul 29, 2014 3:30 PM CST
An amount of material similar to the forest floor is fine around trees, especially since it's not dirt, not raising the level of dirt around the roots. Nobody rakes them up out in the wild.

Once you 'improve' some soil with such little effort, it's addicting, at least that's what happened to me. Too exciting to not share how easy it is, though not instant. All started with smothering a small patch of grass instead of trying to shovel it up. And I've never done that double-digging thing that was all the rage in garden books when I was a buyer of garden books, but have ended up with some amazing patches of dark 'dirt.' I have more time than strength :+)

Yeah, add what you can when you can, the wider variety, the better.
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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 30, 2014 8:07 AM CST
I read on another site that ENGLISH ROSEUM (that's what I have) prefers quite a bit of sun and likes evenly moist soil (my soil dries out between waterings) and must have acidic soil or it will yellow and die. I don't know if my soil is acidic or not, but most of the soil in this area is more on the alkaline side than acidic. So it sounds like my rhodie was dead the min I planted it unfortunately. I guess I need to either move it or toss it out altogether because it is not going to live where I have it now. Article also said that rhododendrons tend to have an extensive root system that is rather shallow. So amending the soil just for the shrub will not work because it roots out so far.

The spot its in now is pretty much full shade although it does get light (it is not dark shade) and the soil becomes dry and powdery between waterings. So if I can improve the soil some, with the full shade, should hostas do ok there or will they need more sun too? I can probably amend the soil enough to grow hostas which would have a much smaller root system than of course a 6 ft woody shrub would.

I would like to add something to the area to add a little more interest in the 3-6 ft range, besides hostas. Is there anything else at all that will live in this area? I also have a RubySlippers Hydrangea in this area, and so far it looks great but I just planted it this year also and it was a premium size in a larger pot-more developed root ball. So over time this also may go downhill like the rhodies did, because I am afraid it will not be able to compete with the tree roots and the full shade (they need a little more sun too I bet).

I just need ideas on a small kind of shrub that likes full shade. It wouldn't have to flower, or be evergreen but that would be a plus. I guess it would not even have to be a shrub, just some kind of largish plant that likes shade and would be able to hold it's own with my Hemlock-roots.

Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jul 31, 2014 7:57 AM CST
Oops, above, "Nobody rakes them up out in the wild. " I meant leaves, which I didn't make clear.

Taking some cues from mother nature, here are plants I've seen growing in forest with primarily hemlock trees in OH, Z6. I wasn't much into shrubs back then, don't remember getting or having any besides Hydrangea. If you can get your soil to stop being so dry, that could be something to consider, they don't like to dry out, as you probably know. Hopefully someone with more shade shrub experience in your zone would have some other ideas.

Hostas
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Columbine
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Dogwood (a small tree)
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Jack-in-the-pulpit
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Maianthemum
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Trillium
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Violets
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Other shade plants I enjoyed when I lived in OH, Pulmonaria, Polemonium, Bergenia, Lamium, Veronica, Alchemilla, Hellebore... You can try 1 or 2 of things you think you might like, see how they do, get more if you're happy with them.
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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 31, 2014 8:01 AM CST
well I have the violets and violets and more violets and I pull them out constantly, they seem to THRIVE in the area. Guess I should start leaving them Smiling
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
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Cinta
Aug 13, 2014 10:04 AM CST
If you have a starbucks in your area get some of the coffee grounds and put it around the plant.

I also give mine a shot of Miracaid in the Spring and in the fall.

Rhodo love acid soil.

Thumb of 2014-08-13/Cinta/a9091b
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
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chelle
Aug 13, 2014 11:11 AM CST
purpleinopp said:An amount of material similar to the forest floor is fine around trees, especially since it's not dirt, not raising the level of dirt around the roots. Nobody rakes them up out in the wild.

Once you 'improve' some soil with such little effort, it's addicting, at least that's what happened to me. Too exciting to not share how easy it is, though not instant. All started with smothering a small patch of grass instead of trying to shovel it up. And I've never done that double-digging thing that was all the rage in garden books when I was a buyer of garden books, but have ended up with some amazing patches of dark 'dirt.' I have more time than strength :+)

Yeah, add what you can when you can, the wider variety, the better.


I agree

This area was shady but dry as a bone, machinery (riding lawnmower) packed clay that grew nothing well -watered, or not. We nixed the ride-on mower and started adding whatever decomposable material was abundant at any given time to the area. A few years later it looks like this...perhaps a bit too abundantly flourishing, even without the addition of synthetic fertilizers or additives, and very rarely (only once this year, so far) watered.



Thumb of 2014-08-13/chelle/de12d9 Thumb of 2014-08-13/chelle/994a42

This yellow flowering shrub competes well with the evergreen above and beside it. It blooms in little light and is very drought tolerant.
Thumb of 2014-08-13/chelle/cefe67
These are three or four year-old seedlings that I grew from this plant.


Don't feel that you need to add a lot at one time, either; it's better for both you and your tree if you just toss on frequent layers of say, 2 or 3" worth of stuff rather than trying to cover it deeply all in one day.

When and if I notice that an area of the garden is becoming challenging -I know to add (even more) decomposables. Smiling




Cottage Gardening

Newest Interest: Rock Gardens


springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Aug 13, 2014 2:49 PM CST
wow your pictures look so promising! Very pretty, I did buy one of those yellow flowering plants this summer. It is still potted right now.
Cinta I do save my coffee grounds but didn't think to put them around those shrubs. I will do that!
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
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springcolor
Aug 13, 2014 3:16 PM CST
I just wanted to add my 2 cents. I have many established rhodies in the garden but have acid soil. What I have seen is that rhodies naturally drop some leaves in the late summer / fall. Not sure if you are fertilizing but use only fertilizer for acid loving plants. Garden centers have a special one that says for rhododendrons and azaleas. I usually fertilize only in early spring, that way they have a chance to grow then slow down as we approach winter. Ok I'll go away.
Thumb of 2014-08-13/springcolor/2bd199 Thumb of 2014-08-13/springcolor/eadd33

All my Rhodies have some yellow leaves.
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[Last edited by springcolor - Aug 13, 2014 3:21 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #679786 (13)
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Dog Lover Cottage Gardener
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chelle
Aug 13, 2014 4:35 PM CST
Great info, Julia. Thumbs up

It's good to hear from a successful grower that some leaf drop can be expected.
Cottage Gardening

Newest Interest: Rock Gardens


Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
Garden Photography Region: Pacific Northwest Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Dog Lover Foliage Fan Greenhouse Container Gardener Heucheras Sedums
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springcolor
Aug 13, 2014 4:56 PM CST
Thumbs up I also think they just love the PNW climate. I have zero gardening experience other than here.
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