Growing Azalea's and Rhododendron's.

All azalea's are rhododendron's but not all rhododendron's are azalea's. However they all come under the heading of rhododendron as a group with shared characteristics. The point of difference is that azaleas have 5 stamens and rhododendrons have 10 or more. One thing they do have in common is requiring the same conditions to thrive. It's a bit of a myth that azaleas and rhododendrons are difficult to grow in the UK. Certainly if you have ideal soil conditions they will flourish, but if not don't worry, just follow the steps below and you too can enjoy these beautiful rewarding shrubs.

Site selection & preparation.

Rhododendrons naturally prefer moist acidic soil. Acidity is measured using the pH scale. The perfect measurement would be pH 4.5-6. Neutral is pH7 and higher than 7 is alkaline. Investing in a good pH meter (available from most good garden centres) will indicate what needs to be done to prepare the site. Should an acid soil not be available raised beds can be made incorporating plenty of ericaceous compost or well composted leaf mould to lower the pH or alternatively thay can easily be grown in tubs. Select a container or tub with good drainage about three times the size of the root-ball and then fill with a mixture of ericaceous compost mixed with leaf mould or well composted pine needle litter. Always ensure plants are well watered in dry conditions especially in the first year or two after initial planting.

Do not plant too close to mature trees and hedges which will steal all the soil moisture and stunt the growth. Choose a position at least 2 metres from a hedge or tree with enough room for the plant to grow - check the plant label to see the ultimate size of your plant in 10 years. 

Planting.

Ensure your plant is well-watered before planting. Do not plant too deeply as all rhododendrons root quite close to the surface. Mulch well with bark or leaf mould after planting and again once per year to retain moisture.

Feeding.

Once your plant is established, we recommend an application of ericaceous fertiliser or controlled release fertiliser in spring after flowering.

Maintenance.

Ensure that your plant has plenty of water during the summer in dry conditions, especially on dry sandy soils. Do not allow the roots to dry out as they will then not readily take up water. Plants with drooping leaves in the summer indicate dry roots, water little and often to overcome this problem. Avoid perennial weeds and grasses growing around the plants as this will compete for water. The larger flowering Hardy Hybrid and Yakushimanum Rhodendrons will benefit from dead heading (pinching out dead flowewrs) to encourage healthy new growth and more new flower buds for the next spring. All plants can be pruned to keep shape or reduce size, this is especially true of the deciduous azaleas. This is best done soon after flowering to encourage new growth. In Autumn it is good practice to mulch the plants surface root area with around 3cm of organic matter such as leaf mould to prevent weeds, conserve moisture and feed the plant.

It is useful to remember that a 7 litre pot (roughly 1 Foot diameter) exposed, in hot windy weather, can use 2 litres of water per day, but only 1/2 litre in dull weather.

Evergreen Azalea Companion Plants

Evergreen Azalea Companion Plants

Bluebells make the perfect companion for Evergreen Azalea

Dead Heading

Dead Heading

Shown here taking out dead flower heads

PLANT CARE HEATHERS.

If you are not sure of your soil type purchase a soil test kit so you can test the ph level. This will show how acid or alkaline your soil is. If your soil is acid you can grow any heather cultivars but those with a ph 6.5 or more will be restricted to the carnea and darleyensis types unless liberal quantities of an acid soil such as peat is incorporated into the existing soil. Sites which are shaded for most of the day are best to avoid, as are dry sites under trees.

Heathers are best planted in group multiples of 3-5 to give a bold informal look. Plan to use 5 plants per square metre allowing space for other plants where required. Plant deeply in a well prepared soil with lower foliage resting on the soil. Once planted heathers need very little attention apart from trimming once per year to keep shape and stop them growing into each other.

Heathers Graph

                                                                                                                 Shaded area shows flowering period.

How and when to trim.

Calluna vulgaris: Each February or March prune long flowering spikes back to plant, trim off all flower heads.

Erica carnea: Every other April or May trim off dead flowers to make a nice bush. These are naturally compact grower so need very little trimming.

Erica cinerea: Each February or March trim off dead flowers in particular the long flowering spikes.

Erica darleyensis: Trim quite hard each April/May to keep growth under control as these are quite vigorous growers.

PLANT CARE CAMELLIAS.

Choose a well  drained sheltered position protected from easterly winds, in sun or light shade with lime-free or acid soil (pH5 - 5.5). Alternatively plant in a large tub or raised bed using ericaceous compost.

Soak throughly before planting. Fork plenty of moist ericaceous compost into chosen site. Dig a hole large enought to avoid disturbing the rootball. Carefully remove the pot and place the plant in the hole. Backfill with soil previously mixed with a suitable fertilizer then firm. Water throughly after planting.

Keep well watered until established. Each spring apply balanced fertilizer and mulch the root area to retain moisture. Remove dead flower heads after flowering. Application of a liquid fertilizer during the summer will keep plants healthy. Protect open blooms from late spring frosts.

PLANT CARE GARDENIA.

Gardenias require a lime free acid soil ph 5-5.5 and light shade. Alternatively they can be grown in beds or in decorative container using ericaceous compost. Container growing allows the plants to be moved around or under protection in moderate to sever frosty weather.

Soak throughly before planting. Fork plenty of moist ericaceous compost into chosen site. Dig a hole large enought to avoid disturbing the rootball. Carefully remove the pot and place the plant in the hole. Backfill with soil previously mixed with a suitable fertilizer then firm. Water throughly after planting.

Keep well watered until established. Each spring apply balanced fertilizer and mulch the root area to retain moisture. Remove dead flower heads after flowering. Application of a liquid fertilizer during the summer will keep plants healthy.

PLANT CARE PIERIS.

Choose a sheltered position in light shade with lime-free or acid soil ph 5-5.5. Alternatively plant in a tub or raised bed using ericaceous compost.

Soak throughly before planting. Fork plenty of moist ericaceous compost into chosen site. Dig a hole large enought to avoid disturbing the rootball. Carefully remove the pot and place the plant in the hole. Backfill with soil previously mixed with a suitable fertilizer then firm. Water throughly after planting.

Keep well watered until established. Each spring apply balanced fertilizer and mulch the root area to retain moisture. Remove dead flower heads after flowering. Application of a liquid fertilizer during the summer will keep plants healthy.

PLANT CARE ACERS -  (JAPANESE MAPLE).

The ideal soil conditions for these plants is a slightly acid ph5 and well drained with good quantities of organic matter. Should such soil not be available a little preparation can create the required environment. They will not tolerate very alkaline and dry conditions.

Prepare the soil well prior to planting by digging plant site well incorporating plenty of well rooted organic or ericaceous compost into the soil of the chosen site. After planting water well and mulch the plant area well with composted manure or bark to retain moisture. Mulch each year once established ensuring the compost doesn't come into contact with the collar of the plant.

These plants are ideal for growing in containers as a patio feature using a compost with high organic matter such as John Innes No2. Ensure the pot has good drainage before filling and planting.

Japanese Maples can be pruned to keep a required shape and size, this is best done when fully dormant from November to early February.

PLANT CARE FERNS

Our range of Ferns come in all shapes and sizes with a high percentage of evergreen and semi decidious varieties. These Ferns are suitable for any moist soil or shade in fact many prefer shaded areas or even gloomy sites where very few other plants thrive. Hardy Ferns like well dug soil incorporated with lots of organic matter such as leafmould. Also use this to mulch the plants after planting and once per year thereafter.