How to Plant & Care for Rhododendron


The thousand or more varieties of rhododendron grow in a wide range of climates but tend to thrive in cooler climates. Some varieties display large green leaves throughout the winter with bright blooms in the spring and bushy green foliage through the summer months. Transplanting rhododendron from your local nursery adds a splash of color to your spring garden and a landscaping shrub for the remainder of the year.

Step 1

Begin planting preparations in early fall for warm climates and early spring for colder climates. Choose a location to plant your rhododendron. Make sure your plant will be sheltered from wind and receive plenty of filtered sunlight.

Step 2

Dig out a bed for your rhododendron 18 inches deep and 3 feet wide per plant. Rhododendrons require acidic soil to grow properly. Lower the pH of the soil by incorporating iron sulfate until the pH measures between 5 and 5.5. Add ground limestone to raise the pH of overly acidic soils.

Step 3

Incorporate 50 percent organic material into the removed soil, removing any large stones or rocks as you work. Add 25 percent sand if you are planting in clay soil.

Step 4

Remove any non-biodegradable material from around the root ball of your rhododendron and soak the root ball in a large bucket of water to loosen the roots.

Step 5

Place your rhododendron plants 3 feet apart in holes just larger than the root ball. Fill in around the root balls with soil so the tops are just covered. Rhododendrons will die easily if planted too deeply. Thoroughly water the soil.

Step 6

Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree to maintain soil moisture and regulate soil temperatures during the winter months. Apply a fertilizer for acidic soil plants according to the package instructions in early summer.

Step 7

Water your rhododendron regularly but avoid water logging the soil. Mist the leaves of your plant when you water if you live in a dry climate. Harden off your plant for winter by leaving the soil dry through September and watering thoroughly around Thanksgiving.

Tips and Warnings

  • Plant rhododendron in a raised bed if your soil doesn't drain well.


  • American Rhododendron Society: Planting Rhododendron
  • University of Missouri Extension: Growing Azaleas and Rhododendrons
Keywords: planting Rhododendron, growing Azaleas, Rhododendron care

About this Author

Lydia Stephens began writing professionally in 2009. She has written online for Nile Guides, and various other Web sites and has been published in "Stringing Magazine" and "Xiamen Wave." Stephens played competitive soccer for 19 years, has been weight lifting since 2007 and enjoys running, biking and sailing. She has a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from the University of Texas.