No plant is more Asheville and Western North Carolina than rhododendron. They grow like weeds up in the mountains all over the area, sprouting up and thriving even perched over rocks on cliff faces. Despite that, it’s crazy how fussy they can be when we add them to our landscape. Here are a few tips for success when planting these beautiful natives.
- Add lots of organic matter. They like shady woodland areas that get lots of natural compost. Add a wide and thick layer of compost and/or manure to the planting bed before digging. A raised bed might also be a good choice here if necessary.
- Give them some afternoon shade. In the nursery trade, full sun is 6 or more hours. Many rhododendrons are rated for full sun, but they don’t like full-on exposed areas all day long. Giving them at least a little afternoon shade is best.
- Don’t overwater. A lot of root failure happens when they are planted in heavy clay and overwatered. They have shallow root systems and don’t want to sit in overly wet areas.
- Watch for deer. They like to nip the new buds. Arguably they are more deer-resistant than azaleas, but they can still be a problem.
- Scout for lacebug. This pesky critter can cause quite a bit of trouble, stunting the growth of the plant over time. Look for mottled-looking leaves with a white powdery-looking topside and black spots under the leaf. It may need a spray that season.
- Mulch after planting, nice and wide. This goes along with organic matter, but should be in addition to those soil amendments. Mulch breaks down and adds more nutrients to the soil, keeps weeds at bay, and helps regulate soil temperature and moisture. Don’t skip this step!
Here is a video of some rhododendrons on Strawberry Gap, just south of Asheville.