Rhododendrons In Texas
By Mrs. Laura Bunton
The fact that our soil here in Austin, Texas has a pH of 9.5 to 10.5 did not frighten or discourage us from growing rhododendrons and azaleas. Water from the river used for watering also has a pH of 9.5. During the Summer the temperature some times reaches 115 degrees. All these facts seem to lead to the conclusion that we could not grow rhododendrons, but my plants including azaleas are fine and green foliaged, with real Texas buds.
We employed both chemicals and organic materials to overcome our difficult problem of high alkalinity in both soil and water.
A hole of considerable size is dug when planting. It is filled with a mixture of oak leaf mold, peat moss, sand and garden loam. We then mix into this prepared spot Epsom salts, aluminum sulphate and Copperall. The plant is then set into this mixture in the conventional way.
When watering plants we fill a ten gallon barrel with water that has been mixed with Copperall, salts and aluminum sulphate and attach a siphon to the irrigating garden hose. The action of the flowing water also takes the mixture from the barrel.
The plants are bathed in a fine spray with this mixture. When watering the plants the mixture is allowed to run directly on the root system. Two weeks after the plants are set, phosphate and potash may be sprinkled around the plants roots.
We use this method of watering about once a month during the Summer months, and all the leaves are kept green.
I do not mind this extra preparation and watering for it does not take much time, and I am more than generously rewarded when these wonderful shrubs come into bloom.
In the Summer the temperature rises to over 110 degrees with the humidity very low. The plants do droop at that time but a fine spraying of water brings them right back and they seem none the worse.