How to Start a Rhododendron


Rhododendrons feature clusters of flowers that come in a range of colors to provide a showy display in your yard. You can prune larger rhododendrons into a tree shape or let them grow as a shrub. Some varieties are evergreen; their large shiny leaves provide an attractive addition to the yard even in winter. Their root system is shallow, so careful attention to watering is essential when starting a rhododendron to prevent root drying and plant death.

Step 1

Open the burlap around the root ball and remove any plastic or string.

Step 2

Cut any roots that are encircling the root ball if the plant is pot-bound.

Step 3

Loosen the outer roots carefully to ensure good contact with the soil.

Step 4

Soak the root ball of your rhododendron in a tub of water if it is dry.

Step 5

Dig your planting hole a little bigger than the root ball if you're planting in good soil. Good soil for rhododendrons is sandy, acidic and has a high organic matter content.

Step 6

Add organic matter, such as compost or perlite, to your soil if it is denser or less porous than the soil of the root ball.

Step 7

Create a planting mound on top of the ground if your soil is clay or holds standing water in the bottom of the hole. Your planting mound should be made up of soil, bark, peat moss, and sand or perlite to make it as porous as the soil in the root ball.

Step 8

Do not plant your rhododendron deeper than it grew in the nursery; rhododendrons can be killed if planted too deep. Keep the top of the root ball at the surface of the soil.

Step 9

Water frequently during the first year to keep the root ball moist; allowing the root ball to dry out can kill your plant.

Step 10

Fertilize sparingly; your rhododendron may not require fertilizer in good soil. In sandy areas or those where the soil has lower organic matter, give your plants a light application of fertilizer specifically for rhododendrons in the spring.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not fertilize after June, especially if your winters are cold; late fertilization can cause the plant to grow rapidly until the first frost. In order to survive the frost, the rhododendron must be dormant; if it is still actively growing the frost will kill it.

Things You'll Need

  • Rhododendron plant
  • Pruning shears
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Perlite
  • Bark
  • Peat moss
  • Sand
  • Fertilizer formulated specifically for rhododendrons


  • American Rhododendron Society: Planting

Who Can Help

  • Growing Rhododendrons
Keywords: planting rhododendron, rhododendron, starting a rhododendron

About this Author

Lynn Mansfield is a freelance writer living and working in Minnesota. Her work has appeared in online sites and publications such as theWAHMmagazine, for parents who work at home, and eHow. She is an active member of Absolute Write and Writer's Village University.