Rhododendrons: Leave it or lose it?

Discussion in 'Ericaceae (rhododendrons, arbutus, etc.)' started by cjc, May 23, 2005.

  1. cjc

    cjc Member

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    I am desperate for advice.

    Two years ago we built our house and in the process we moved a large rhodo (I think it's a macrophyllum - has the purple blooms) from one area to another. I wasn't sure if it would take the move but our builders said we should try because it would be such a shame to cut down a healthy, mature plant.

    When it was dug up the root ball was found to be very small for the size of bush but we planted it anyway. It has not done well. It bloomed twice after we first planted it (stress?) and then there was nothing last year despite lots of fertilizer and good watering. Most of the foliage has dropped off and there are many dead, barren branches. I was all set to dig it up and replace it but now I see new growth and flowering buds on the very ends of the spindly, empty branches. I have cut back most of the dead stuff and it looks horribly thinned out but the new life has given me a glimmer of hope.

    Is there any way this rhodo can come back? Can new growth appear on the lower part of the empty branches? Just about everyone I speak to says I should give up on it but I want to be sure before I part with it.

    Advice please! Thanks.
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    I would call coast rhododendron pink. 'Purple' might be something else. At any rate, rhododendron mildew is common here, your description could fit that. Or maybe it's the fertilizer, the wrong formulation or the wrong application rate can hurt these noticeably - the wild species tend to occur on coarse, heavily leached soils. As a general practice sampling soil and having it tested should be done before fertilizing. Soils vary, overapplication of a nutrient can produce a toxicity. Of the N-P-K trio, P (Phosphorus) in particular tends to be overapplied.
     
  3. cjc

    cjc Member

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    I've taken another look at it and yes, it could be more "pink" than "purple". The fertilizer I used last year was a standard boxed rhodo and azalea food applied as indicated. I'm not sure about the ph of the soil.

    Even if I check/correct the ph balance of the soil is there any chance that a rhodo can come back when only the very ends of the branches have leaves and buds? Will it fill in again or look forever sick and weak? Every other rhodo in our area, including others in our yard, are doing well. That's why I suspected the move was the cause of the trauma.
     
  4. fourd

    fourd Active Member 10 Years

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    There is hope! I had a 3ft plant I bought for $1 that was in a 1 gal pot and root bound. For a buck, what the heck, the pot was worth that but the plant was in dire straights with wilt. It died back to one stem about 6 inches long with maybe 6 leaves and even that was wilted so I gave up hope. It then had spactacular growth the next spring from the crown -- three to four growth spirts for about 3ft of growth in one year. The orginal remaining 6in growth died also so it was basically dead ... now all growth is new and this is a very nice plant! New growth is a good sign for you so I wouldn't give up!
     

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