1 gal. Rhododendrons - Knowledgebase Question

Watsonville, Ca
Question by gwen_smith45
February 9, 2010
Last year I bought five rhododendrons (all 1 gallon size), they grew and bloomed beautifully. Then when they finished blooming they all died. So this made me think that maybe the root system was not hardy enough? I have never bought any rhododendrons in a 1 gal. container before. I do have a beautiful one that I bought in a 2 gal size and have never had a problem with it.

Answer from NGA
February 9, 2010


Although the rhodies were only in one gallon containers, the plants themselves were mature enough to bloom - probably 2-3 years old. Young plants have small root systems, but they are usually large enough to support the plant. If they were not, the plant may have set flower buds but the buds would have been dropped before they opened. Flowering takes a lot of energy and plants will not open the flower buds they set if they don't have the reserved energy. So, I'm inclined to think that the plants suffered from some cultural or environmental problem. Most newly planted landscape trees and shrubs take several weeks to several months to adjust to their new surroundings so transplant stress is certainly a possibility. Rhodies in general prefer shady growing conditions in moist but well draining acidic soil. If you have other rhodies that are thriving, you know what kinds of growing conditions they prefer. Root rot is one of the most common causes of sudden death in rhododendrons. When soils do not drain well the excessive moisture can actually suffocate the roots by driving out all the air in the soil. If you still have the plants, dig them up and inspect the root systems. Healthy roots will be creamy white inside; rotted roots will be slimy black or rusty colored inside. Wish I could put on my detective cap and inspect the plants and the growing area for you so we could come to a conclusion on this! I can only suggest you amend the planting areas with compost or peat moss to help it drain well, be sure the plants are getting some protection from hot afternoon sunshine, and water them deeply but infrequently so the soil has a change to drain well between waterings. Best wishes with your garden!

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