Ask a Question forum: What's wrong with my rhododendrons?

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zone 5 - northern Illinois
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ninabee
Jul 6, 2017 7:40 AM CST
Landscaper planted these 2 yrs ago in the month of August. When they were planted they were full and had beautiful flowers. Last year nothing bloomed. This year there's hardly any leaves and lots of dead wood. I'm actually feeding them this year, but I'm not seeing any improvement. No signs of budding either. One of the pictures here shows that their roots are exposed. Could that be the problem? I'm lost.


Thumb of 2017-07-06/ninabee/edd4a8


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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jul 6, 2017 7:59 AM CST
Nina - if it's any consolation, that really cold snap we had at the beginning of December did a number on my azaleas even though the rest of the winter was mild. Maybe after a long, warmer fall was too much of a shock for them. I had lots of dead wood on them and very few flowers. Do you fertilize your plants? I use a granular acid fertilizer along with top-dressing with peat moss. Make sure they have ample water as well since they are shallow-rooted plants. My plants are slowly recovering with new growth.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
porkpal
Jul 6, 2017 8:03 AM CST
Exposed roots are definitely a problem. I would add a little soil over the roots, then mulch and keep watered. Fertilizer will not help them right now.
Porkpal
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
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sooby
Jul 6, 2017 8:30 AM CST
Welcome!

Rhododendrons seem to flower every other year here, not sure why. One important factor in growing rhododendrons is the soil pH. Do you know the soil pH where they are planted? A soil map I just found online for Illinois suggests that in the north the pH may be on the high side for rhododendrons. That doesn't necessarily apply to all areas but is something to look at for an individual garden.
zone 5 - northern Illinois
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ninabee
Jul 6, 2017 9:24 AM CST
I will cover the roots with soil. Actually thinking about moving them. Just found out they can get very big and the landscaper put them in a bad area. Not much room for that kind of growth (if they actually survive). I don't know my soil ph. I should probably buy a tester. Any recommendations on a good one?
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jul 6, 2017 9:27 AM CST
Do you have an IL extension office nearby that can check it for you? Otherwise, see if you can find some pool test strips to check your pH. I haven't found a reliable meter yet unless you want to spend some $$$.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Jul 6, 2017 10:30 AM CST
ninabee said: Actually thinking about moving them. Just found out they can get very big and the landscaper put them in a bad area. Not much room for that kind of growth (if they actually survive).


Rhododendrons can vary in mature size from quite small to big but it depends what rhododendron it is. Do you know the name of them?


zone 5 - northern Illinois
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ninabee
Jul 7, 2017 8:56 AM CST
I do not know their name. All I know is they bloomed gorgeous lavender flowers when they were first planted. Not sure if that helps determine what kind they are. I read that once they get big they are difficult to move, so I'm thinking if they are the larger variety better to move now than wait and have problems.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jul 7, 2017 10:06 AM CST
nina - are you sure those are rhododendrons and not azaleas? They do seem small compared to other plantings in the area. There's been some heavy pruning at the base on one of them - don't know if that's recent or older. Personally, with the summer heat we've had, I think they might be better sited with some afternoon shade if possible.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
zone 5 - northern Illinois
Image
ninabee
Jul 7, 2017 5:40 PM CST
Honestly, I don't know what they are, lol. Landscaper didn't give me any info when they were planted so I searched all over the internet trying to identify them from from pictures and my memory. Rhododendron pics looked most like these when they had flowers.
zone 5 - northern Illinois
Image
ninabee
Jul 7, 2017 5:50 PM CST
And the pruning you see is all the dead wood I trimmed this year. Thought maybe it would help.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Jul 7, 2017 5:59 PM CST
Azaleas are a kind of rhododendron. There are some ways to generally tell which Rhododendron is an azalea, see:

http://www.nyrhododendron.org/...
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
porkpal
Jul 7, 2017 8:25 PM CST
And some azaleas are dwarf varieties. if your landscaper was a good one, he would know their expected size. Since they are planted right up front, perhaps they are a dwarf azalea?
Porkpal
zone 5 - northern Illinois
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ninabee
Jul 8, 2017 8:06 AM CST
Thanks Sooby for the link. Unfortunately I don't have any stamens to count. I did take a closer look at the leaves and they are a bit hairy underneath, no dots so I'm thinking they might be azaleas after all. Maybe I will wait until I get some flowers to determine what they are and how big they'll get. Don't really want to move them if I don't have to. Did some more reading and I'm going to try giving them some protection this winter, see if that helps. Either way I'm not going to get flowers this year, right? They should've bloomed in spring??
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jul 8, 2017 8:21 AM CST
If you decide to wait to move them I would give them some TLC in place this year. Brush away some of that mulch, apply some peat moss (at least an inch or two) and reapply the mulch on top (but don't touch the stems). Keep them watered this summer to help them cope with the hot temps. Basically, azaleas and rhodies are treated pretty much the same.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb

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