Rhododendron Summer Care

    • Thin fruit trees after “June drop” when the trees partially thin themselves. Thin apples to 6 inches apart and peaches to 4 inches apart. Pears don’t need thinning.
    • Garlic should be harvested when the leafy tops turn yellow and fall over; air-dry bulbs, remove tops and store bulbs in a cool place.
    • Birdbaths will attract our feathered friends to your backyard so you can enjoy them close-up. Place them a few feet from a bushy shrub to give the birds protection.
    • Zinnias love the heat and will add a rainbow of color to your garden and the deer don’t like them.
    • Fragrant star jasmine is in full bloom right now. Plant one in a semi-shaded spot where you can enjoy its lovely perfume.

Rhododendron Summer Care

Those lovely rhododendrons and azaleas which gave you such beautiful flowers this spring need some care now. The most important thing that they need is water. They are native to regions such as the foggy lower slopes of the Himalayas or the Smoky Mountains of the eastern U.S., where summer rain falls frequently and copiously. In our dry summer climate, they need special attention.

Rhododendrons have fine roots that grow very close to the soil surface. They can dry out quickly in hot, dry conditions, and will show stress after six weeks of dry weather. They require deep, slow soaking that penetrates through the entire root ball. Avoid shallow and frequent watering, which only encourage root development in the mulch layer. Use a soaker hose or drip system which thoroughly wets the root area.

Rhododendrons and azaleas are setting flower buds now for next spring’s bloom, and they require water to form plump, healthy buds. If neglected in July and August, they may give you a disappointing bloom next spring.

Plants are usually fertilized once in early spring, and again immediately after bloom with a regular fertilizer to keep the leaves a healthy green color. This last application should happen by June 30.

Now is the time to begin fertilizing with 0-10-10 fertilizer. It has no nitrogen in it so it will not stimulate new growth but will help the plants develop flower buds for next year. Apply 0-10-10 once a month in July through October. All fertilizers should be applied when water is available, either through rain or supplementary watering. Never fertilize a dry plant.

Mulch can help retain moisture and keep the roots cooler in hot weather. Be sure to water thoroughly before you apply the mulch. A coarse mulch of wood chips or bark about 2 or 3 inches deep is excellent. Don’t pile it against the trunk or place it too deep over the roots. Roots need air!

When the rhododendron have finished flowering, they should be deadheaded. Carefully remove the flower heads at their bases, taking care not to damage the new growth right next to the flower shoot. Plants that are not deadheaded will put growing and flowering energy into seed production. Young, newly planted or transplanted bushes are especially worth deadheading.

Rhododendrons are surface rooting plants and weeding should be done with care. Never use a hoe or dig with a fork or spade as this will damage the delicate feeding roots that lie near the surface.

Good, basic summer care can make rhododendrons and azaleas year-round assets in your garden.

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