The Rhododendron is The Washington State Flower. To a large degree that means we Preserve and Protect it as a State Symbol. When I see a “sick” Rhododendron it makes me sad…to me it feels like someone is wiping their feet on an American Flag. I tend to be oddly “loyal” that way to “symbols” of honor.
The flower below is a picture I took last year and posted on May 20th, so that should give you a rough I idea of when to expect rhododendron to be in full bloom, though I have seen a few in full bloom recently, but not mine.
I have nursed more than a few “sick” rhododendron back to full health in my time, and have a few tips. If you have not already done so, now is a good time to feed your rhododendron before they bloom.
Think of it like a preganant woman taking more vitamins before they give birth. A budding plant is like a pregnant woman…it needs some extra care at that stage of it’s development.
The Washington State University recommends that you feed the plant when the buds swell and start to get “sticky” in Spring (which is about where mine are today) and again after the plant has flowered. Lots of other tips on rhododendron in that link.
You may have noticed that Rhododendron tend to “burn up” if the location is too sunny, and seem to thrive best when they are planted near pine trees. You see that a lot in Bridle Trails in Bellevue. Lots of tall pine trees and healthy rhododendron thriving nearby. That is because rhododendron LOVE acid soil, and lots of pine needles falling to the ground seem to provide many of the nutrients these plants thrive on.
Not all rhododendron need to be fed. Those planted in soil with insufficient acid content need an acid based fertilizer. I like to use the Miracle Grow product designated for use with acid loving plants, but there are many ways to provide these nutrients, and frankly for new plants there are some better ways.
I like to do a “foliar feeding” by mixing a light solution and spraying the leaves. After a good but not OVER feeding early in Spring, I still spray the plant with a very light feeding during the flowering season. But you have to be careful to follow package directions and not over feed your plants.
For today…feed your rhododendron! It’s kind of a patriotic “duty”. 🙂 One of my favorite things to do is “deadhead” them when appropriate…but that’s a topic for later in the season.
Word of Warning…NEVER feed into and after July. Wait until you get to late winter early spring. Feed them now and again when they flower…but don’t keep feeding them past June.
If anyone has other tips, please feel free to post them in the comments. I’m far from an expert on rhododedron…I just happen to love them.