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Plant of the month April 2018

Rhododendrons can be deciduous or evergreen shrubs forming large white, red, pink or purple flowers.

Rhododendron

Large leaved types can grow into small trees whereas the small leaved types will make excellent ground cover in the right situation in the garden. The range of species and cultivars can give flowering from December through July.

Planting rhododendrons and azaleas

Mulching is an essential part of proper care for azaleas and rhododendrons. The roots of these shallow-rooted plants need the protection that mulch affords against extremes of heat and cold -- and against drying out. Remember, the fact that these plants like a well-drained soil doesn't mean they like to be dry. Azaleas and rhododendrons prefer a level of moisture in their root zone all the time. They just don't like to be sitting, saturated in it for long periods of time, which would cause their roots to rot.

The best mulches for azaleas and rhododendrons are acidic mulches, such as leaf mould. Since mulch eventually does break down and become a component of the underlying soil, mulching should be considered as annual event with this group of plants.

Pruning rhododendrons and azaleas

Pruning azaleas and rhododendrons should be undertaken immediately after they finish blooming (usually June or July). Pruning azaleas and rhododendrons later than that risks interfering with the development of next year's buds. Begin by pruning off dead or injured branches, then prune back tall, gangly limbs shooting out of the top of the bush. This will promote a more attractive, compact shape. A proper regime of pruning azaleas and rhododendrons will allow them to flourish and flower on a regular basis.

Companion plants

Japanese acers, magnolias and camellias make excellent combinations with rhododendrons as they prefer similar positions when planting and acid soils.There are many species, cultivars and varieties to choose from. A considerable number have been given the Award of Garden Merit (Look for 'AGM').