Friday, May 7, 2010

I've been fielding this question over and over again in the nursery. What do I need to do to grow great Rhododendrons or Azaleas? If you include boxwood, junipers, spruce, fir, arborvitae, blueberry, pieris, hydrangea in this question, here is a simple answer. (The complex answer is, uhm, complex.)

1. Amend your soil. Nearly all soil in KS, KCK, KCMO and surrounds is sticky clay. Fer reals. Add Gard'n-Wise Cotton Boll compost or Choice compost to your soil to break up clay colloids and give your plants a bit of breathing room. Clay compacts down into a concrete mess- compost will break it up and make it more friable. Roots need air and water and compost aids in this. Compost also adds organic matter to soils that may be poor due to compaction, back fill, run off etc. Organic matter is all of the nutrients that our plants need to grow- nutrients that get depleted by rain, heavy-feeding plants (ROSES, I'm looking at you) and poor gardening practices. Adding organic matter back into the soil will eventually allow you to use less fertilizer. Yay for that! I suggest Choice because it's got more manure, hay & alfalfa meal and is finer. So very versatile. However, Cotton Boll is AMAZING when you have hard sticky clay that just hasn't grown anything well.
2. Use a time-release, granular fertilizer. I love and use Espoma Holly Tone . We carry the whole line of 'Tones'. Wow. Organic, amazing and they really work well.
3. Choose a plant that will be the correct mature size for your space, and choose a plant that corresponds to the light in your garden space. Azaleas and Rhodies need partial-sun. This really means morning sun is ok and afternoon shade is required. Please please don't put these in full sun!
Another tip: use your oak leaves and pine straw for mulch. These plants love that kind of thing!
Also, we have a sale on azaleas for Mother's Day! $14.99 each for these 2 gallon azaleas (Red, White, Purple)- 2-3'H x W at maturity.



  1. Also, to be clear: only rhodies and azaleas are so cut and dried about sun/ shade. Other of the acid-loving plants have different sun requirements!

  2. We also have a Family Tree brand Azalea, Camellia & Rhododendron NPro, controlled release fertilizer with macro and micronutrients.