Rhododendrons: Leggy Rhododendron

Discussion in 'Ericaceae (rhododendrons, arbutus, etc.)' started by lily, Aug 18, 2009.

  1. lily

    lily Active Member 10 Years

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    My Jean Marie Montague has lost some of its' lower leaves. They turn, yellow/brown and fall off. Easy to just lift off without tugging at the leaf. I also noticed some of the inner branches have turned yellow. It is looking somewhat leggy. I have 4 rhodies all planted around the same time (about a year or so ago) The others are fine, except they aren't growing very fast. Is this normal? Should I be doing something? They are planted on the North-West side of my home. I have attached a couple of photos for you to review. As usual, "thank you"
     

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  2. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    they're usually planted in spots where they have some, if not almost all, shade. how much of the day are they in full sun?
     
  3. lily

    lily Active Member 10 Years

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    They are in the sun all day pretty much. But I was told when I planted them that Jean Marie Montague's do well on this side of my house and can tolerate the sun. Maybe not? Do you think too much sun?
     
  4. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    I think of rhododendrons as plants to grow in at least part shade, though I've seen them do well in lots of sun in spots where they are happy.

    The mystery here is why only one plant is showing signs of stress, and there could be a number of reasons. It's possible that, because this plant is close to the downspout from your roof, the soil is getting waterlogged in that spot. It's possible that reflected sun from the (aluminum?) house siding, combined with direct sun, is creating an inhospitable environment during some part of the day. It's also possible that drainage and other soil characteristics are different from one place to another in your yard, even in such a small area -- this happens sometimes when the topsoil gets pushed around during the grading process when land is developed, or when soil gets compressed by heavy construction equipment.

    I think on the whole these plants would all be happier if you planted a tree or two to provide partial shade for them. It's also probably best not to feed them too generously -- that can encourage them to grow too quickly for their own good, producing weak shoots and leaves that are more susceptible to nasty microbes and bugs and other ailments. And this case, it looks like they're probably getting a generous dose of second-hand fertilizer from the lawn.

    Having said all that, it's not entirely unusual for rhododendrons to lose their lower leaves and take on a leggy appearance. In their native habitats they eventually grow to tree-like proportions. You can fill in the gaps with perennials or low-growing shrubs or ornamental grasses or even something cool like one of the shorter bamboos.
     
  5. silver_creek

    silver_creek Active Member

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    Here in the PNW, many rhodies, including Jean Marie Montegue can take full sun. I think something else is the problem. Too much water, not enough water, compacted soil all could be the culprit. Also, Jean Marie Montague is a relative large growing rhody, and it will get leggy without pinching.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Hardy hybrid rhododendrons like this are produced in open fields by commercial growers. However, they may be planted quite close together in the rows - and receive overhead irrigation during hot weather. All rhododendrons require a cool root run, since your plant has no foliage shading the soil beneath it there may be a problem with the summer soil temperatures.

    And even when a cultivar is otherwise sun tolerant it appears the flowers may not hold up as well as they might if shaded.

    Lawn fertilization regimes are not likely to suit rhododendrons.
     
  7. lily

    lily Active Member 10 Years

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    Thank you everyone for all your ideas on what the problem could be with my rhodies. I've taken everyone of these into consideration. The siding on the house is vinyl and not aluminum. It's about 2ft away from the house. I have a lawn fertilizer program. Both spring and summer. I am going to plant them closer together in one larger bed. Should I feed them in the fall or in the spring. How often should I water them? I don't know if I am watering too much or too little. Maybe I can see about planting a tree there for shade. What kind of tree would work? I don't want one that will tower the house. I bought a soil test kit at Canadian Tire for $7.00. I'm going to see if I can figure out how it works. Ron is always telling everyone to do a soil test so I think I better learn how to do this. lol. Thanks sooooo much again for helping me.
     
  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    The exposed stems at the bottom are normal, as the leaves only live so long and then drop. When the shrubs have bigger, broader tops (this cultivar has a sort of table-like habit) then the tree-like aspect will disappear.

    When the soil nutrient situation is more to their liking they will display blackish-green leaves with contrasting yellowish leaf stalks and buds.

    This description links to photos including one showing the habit to expect later, when they are bigger and older.

    http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/rhthei.htm

    I would not bunch several of these in one spot as the large leaf size will be too much visually when seen in one area - same as with English laurel hedges. Better to break them up and place them here and there, flanked by other kinds of evergreen shrubs with smaller leaves. To get a soft, relaxed, flowing appearance to shrub plantings the bulk of the area needs to consist of small-leaved kinds. A good overall balance is a few large-leaved types (such as hardy hybrid rhododendrons like this one), some medium-leaved kinds (tall Oregon grape, kalmia, pieris...) and the majority small-leaved (box, evergreen azaleas, Japanese holly, heather...).
     

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