How to Grow a Rhododendron


Rhododendrons have deep green foliage all year. In the summer, this flowering shrub produces abundant blossoms. Plant your rhododendron in an area that gets dappled sun throughout the summer. Rhododendrons like sheltered areas away from strong wind. Choose a site that gets little or no morning sun in winter. According to Ohio State University, morning winter sun will warm the leaves while the roots are frozen--this will stimulate, and kill, early bud and leaf growth.

Step 1

Dig up and turn over the soil in the area you have selected for your rhododendron. Mix the soil with equal parts peat moss, pine bark mulch, compost and chopped-rotten leaves. The final mixture should be equal parts added organic matter and soil, according to Ohio State University Extension.

Step 2

Dig out a 36-inch-wide, 15-inch-deep area at the planting site. Fill in the hole with the soil and organic-matter mixture, leaving room for the root ball of the rhododendron.

Step 3

Fill a large tub with cool water. Place the rhododendron into the tub, in its nursery pot or burlap wrap it came in, until the root ball stops emitting bubbles and sinks to the bottom of the tub. Let the root ball soak for 15 minutes.

Step 4

Turn the rhododendron on its side and, grasping the base of the stem, wiggle it free from the nursery pot. If the root ball is wrapped in burlap, unwrap the root ball. Hold the shrub over the hole so that the base of the stem is 1 to 2 inches above the surrounding soil.

Step 5

Fill in, under and around the rhododendron root ball, patting the soil down with the palm of your hand as you go. Water until the soil and organic matter is damp all around the root ball.

Step 6

Spread a 2-inch layer of pine on top of the soil around your rhododendron, but keep the mulch at least 3 inches away from the base of the stem. Ohio State University recommends pine-bark mulch or hard-wood mulch.

Step 7

Apply 1 inch of water per week to your rhododendron. If the weather is wet and rainy, adjust your watering for a total of 1 inch per week.

Step 8

Fertilize once a year in the early spring. Use a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants. Check the guidelines on the package to determine the right application method and amount.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Peat moss
  • Pine bark mulch
  • Compost
  • Chopped rotten leaves


  • Ohio State University:Growing Rhododendrons and Azaleas
  • University of Missouri Extension: Growing Azaleas and Rhododendrons
  • The Rhododendron Society: Rhododendron Growing Information
Keywords: shrub care, well draining soil, raised bed, planting shrubs, flowering shrubs

About this Author

Olivia Parker has been a freelance writer with Demand Studios for the past year, writing for Garden Guides and eHow. She has studied herbal and alternative medicine and worked as a landscape artist and gardener. Parker is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts from Boston University Online.