About the Care and Maintenance of the Dwarf Rhododendron
The dwarf rhododendron is a less stout version of the regular rhododendron. It’s a favorite of gardeners with limited space. Although it’s called a dwarf rhododendron, this plant is no shrimp. The dwarf rhododendron can grow to be as tall as a professional basketball player is. If you are planning to grow a rhododendron, you will need to read up on its needs as it is a bit of fussy plant.
Ideal Rhododendron Conditions
When choosing a spot for your dwarf rhododendron, you should consider that its preference for mild conditions. Find a spot in your garden where it receives good morning sun but where it gets shaded from the harshest sunlight and heat in the afternoon. If you must choose between these conditions, look for a somewhat shady spot.
Soil conditions also need to be just right. Find a location where windbreaks will protect your rhodies from the worst that the elements have to offer. Too much wind or overexposure to hard driving precipitation can weaken or even damage your rhododendron even before it has had the chance to set out its beautiful hues in the spring. One trick that veteran planters use is to plant lots of rhodies by each other so that they form a unit of mutual protection.
The soil should also be fairly acidic. A good way of getting this kind of soil is to use compost of the organic variety and to mulch the growing area every other month. It is especially important to mulch your rhodies as the temperature drops in the cold seasons—especially if you get frosty temperatures. Because of the sensitivity to cold that some rhodies are prone to experience, many gardeners in cold weather choose to grow their rhodies indoors to avoid watching them die in the winter.
The spot you choose should also be one where the soil takes water well but where water does not pool. Standing water can drown a dwarf rhododendron or opening up to root rot. Watering your dwarf rhododendron every day, keeping the roots lightly damp but not waterlogged will keep your rhododendron happy and allow it grow strong and tall for you.
To Fertilize or Not to Fertilize
Deciding whether to fertilize is, of course, a personal decision that often has political implications for many planters. If you do decide to fertilize you should do so twice a year, once right as you rhodies begin to flower right at spring’s overture and then again at mid summer when the full symphony of colors has already become well established.
Pruning Your Dwarf Rhododendron
If you want to increase the growth of new buds or if you are just looking to shape your rhododendron patch a bit, then pruning may be in order. The early warm days of spring are the best time to do your pruning for three reasons. First, you will begin to get a sense of which new buds will be coming in at this point. Second, you will be able to identify plants that are in need of concentrating their energies because of lack of health. Third, spring being the beginning of growing season, your rhodies have not yet started using their full powers, and thus a pruning at this point is most efficacious.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful of the dwarf rhododendrons are the dwarf azaleas. Perhaps only roses provoke more pride in amateur and professional gardeners. The beauty of such azaleas comes from their wide variety of colors and the wonderful scent that often accompanies their flowering.