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planting rhododendrons

Rhododendrons have a very shallow root system.  In this photo Craig is standing beside a rhodo that is about 5 years old.  Notice the size of the root system is very small when you consider how large the rhodo actually is.    This is what makes rhodos so easy to shift and is responsible for the statement "rhodos love a ride in a wheelbarrow."  If their root system was larger it would be hard to shift a 10 year old plant.  But with their small root system, it makes moving them easy.
Craig and Large rhodo.jpg Planting into good soil
If you have free draining soil that is rich and good then you can plant straight into it without adding or doing anything special to it.

If your soil is poor
Simply dig a hole 2 - 3 times larger than you actually need, and fill that hole with good soil, peat or rhodo potting mix.

If you have clay soil
You can plant your rhodo on top of the ground and mound up heavy good soil and mulch around it.  One of the largest rhodo gardens we have been to was entirely on a clay pan.  The rhodos were all in raised garden beds, none of them were planted into the clay.

Avoid animal manure going into the hole with the rhodo - see more information on Fertilisers
Rhododendrons need lots of water, in order to retain water a good mulch is required.  We use our grass clippings to add to the water retention in the garden.  We spread them thin and avoid them getting too close to the rhodo plants themselves.  Grass clippings do tend to attract the heat and can burn the surface roots of a rhodo.  We add peastraw on top of the grass clippings.  Use sparingly and keep away from the surface roots of the plant.
peastraw small.jpg
Peastraw helps to keep water in the ground and helps to reduce water evaporation by the sun.  It also helps to control weeds.  We put our peastraw on thick and usually replace every 2 years. 
grass clipp small.jpg
Water Water Water
Rhododendrons must have plenty of water.  Without enough water in summer rhodos shut down their flower production for the following spring.  When there is insufficient water the plant goes into survival mode and retains crucial water for staying alive.  In spring many gardners wonder why their rhodos didn't flower, one of the main reasons is, a lack of water in summer.

Rhodos don't like their feet to be sitting in water, so ensure that the soil is free draining.