Rhododendrons are delicate plants with specific soil and planting requirements that must be fulfilled for the plant to survive. The plants are commonly grown for their large, colorful flowers that bloom during late spring in colors of pink, white, red, yellow or blue. Rhododendron plants typically reach about 5 feet in height, though they can grow to a maximum of 8 feet. They will thrive and flower for many years if the proper steps are taken while planting.
Plant rhododendron in mid-spring in a location that receives bright morning sunlight and partial afternoon shade when temperatures peak. Dig up the planting site and discard any heavy or tight subsoil. Replace with a growing medium made of two parts ground pine bark, one part coarse sand and one part potting soil.
Perform a pH test on the soil at the planting site to ensure the acidity is high enough. Rhododendrons thrive at a pH level of 5.0 to 5.5. Increase the pH of the soil by adding ground limestone or decrease the pH by adding agricultural sulfur according to the manufacturer's directions.
Dig a planting hole of equal depth and twice as wide as the root ball of the rhododendron. Loosen up the root ball by gently spreading the roots with your hands, and then place the plant directly into the hole. Back-fill the hole with soil, and water thoroughly to compact the soil around the roots.
Feed rhododendron immediately after planting, using an acidic fertilizer to encourage an initial burst of growth. Follow the directions on the package for proper application and dosage. Water both before and after applying to release the nutrients into the soil.
Spread a 6-inch layer of chopped leaves over the soil surrounding the rhododendron to increase moisture conservation and gradually release nutrients as the mulch decays. Begin the layer at least 3 inches from the base of the plant to allow air circulation and room for growth.