I love rhododendrons with their gorgeous showy flowers, cool looking evergreen foliage. They fit right in my woodland garden appreciating the morning sun and afternoon shade. They let you know when it is too cold for their liking by curling up their leaves. Some have a soft and fuzzy tomentum on the undersides of the leaves, like my yakushimanum.
Rhodos have their share of problems like other plants and recently I had to figure out why my yaku 'Ken Janek' was dying. Unfortunately I did not take any before pictures ( I was too distraught) to help with the description. Basically the rhodo was dying stem by stem. Quite the shame as they all had flower buds growing on them. What to do?
I dug 'Ken' up. Not the easiest job in the world. This rhodo is not big but digging it up, leaves and flower buds intact, plus root ball, well, I am sure some of you have been in my place. It seemed OK. I could not find disease, or pests or anything obvious. So I tried opening up some of the root ball and then replanted it.
A couple of weeks and 'Ken' did not show any change. In fact there was no response to my digging it up and cutting it open a bit. No shock, no wilt, nothing. It just kept dying.
That's not right I thought. So I dug 'Ken' up again - much easier this time. This time my eyes actually saw what was wrong and I think it has something to do with the way the growers grow the plants. The root ball was actually a very dense mat of peat and whatever other growing medium they use. I realized that there were no visible live roots outside that mass. The roots were not able to get through and into my lovely acid soil. So with nothing left to lose I grabbed our ancient machete and started hacking off pieces of the root ball around the top and sides. When I found root I cut a piece off to see if it was live root or not. If not, I kept hacking.
In the end I lost about half of the original plant. After I replanted 'Ken' he wilted for a for a few days and I took that as a good sign. A week later and the rhodo is showing some colour on one of the buds which means it may actually bloom.
|Today, still a bit wilted|
Just for fun visit Marjorie Hancock's web site where she tells you the "Ten Ways To Kill a Rhododendron".