Plan Before Planting
Courtenay, British Columbia
Reprinted from the North Island Chapter newsletter, October 1991
Before a rhodo is planted, some thought should go into the planting site. Only by proper site planning can one expect a plant to thrive and reward its owner with quality flowers, foliage and form.
Your plant problems will be greater if you select a site that encourages late autumn and early spring growth, such as a south-facing wall. A northern exposure allows greater shade or less direct light, which slows growth earlier in the fall and shields plants from premature spring warmth. Plants growing under a canopy of trees or in partial shade will enter dormancy earlier than plants planted in the open garden and will respond later to spring warmth.
When early morning sun touches frozen leaves and flowers, bud damage will be more severe than in areas where the air temperature rises gradually. This is the main reason why unsheltered eastern and southern exposures are less desirable for early lowering plants than northern or western sites. Any warm sunny site open to frequent winds will increase water loss from plant tissue. If soil freezes through the root ball there is no way for the plant to re-supply the lost moisture. The use of mulches will help reduce freezing in the root zone and help to maintain a more constant soil temperature. A mulched rhodo with its lower roots extending into unfrozen soil can supply moisture to transpiring leaves. Protect your plants from wind by installing screening material such as fencing or evergreen boughs. Never plant rhodos in the lowest area of the garden, especially if there is little or no air circulation. Cold air, like water seeks the lowest possible level.