Rhododendron Care | Planting and Maintenance Tips

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A rhododendron in full bloom.

Brenda Darroch

The stunning and stately rhododendron plant — native to Asia — is a popular and well-loved landscaping element in New England. Large blossoms in hues of pink, purple, red, and white bloom each spring, attracting pollinating insects. A member of the Azalea family, this ornamental shrub requires very little care and maintenance once it is established, making rhododendron care a snap. It isn’t prone to insect infestation and requires little, if any, pruning. In the Northeast, early spring or early fall planting is the best time to put a rhododendron in to the ground.

Rhododendron Care | Planting Tips

  1. Chose an area for planting that receives ample amounts of sunlight and shade or filtered sunlight. Before attempting to plant, test your soil’s PH. Rhododendrons prefer acidic soil with a pH of about 5.5.  PH  test kits are simple to use and available to purchase at garden centers. If the soil is not acidic enough, it can be amended with organic matter. Rhododendrons typically do well in sandy soil.
  2. Dig a hole 2-3 times the width of the root ball and deep enough so the top of the root ball is covered by a few inches of soil but not covering the stem of the plant. Place the plant in the hole and water well before covering the root ball.
  3. Mulch lightly around the top of the root ball to help retain moisture.

Rhododendron Care | Maintenance

  1. A thorough daily watering is preferred throughout the season of the first planting. After the first year, a new plant should be fine on it’s own as long as the soil is kept moist.
  2. In winter, smaller rhododendron shrubs will need protection from heavy snowfall. Before the first snowfall, wrap the branches lightly in burlap and secure with twine. An A-frame style covering or a box style shelter is the best way to shield small, newly planted Rhododendron plants during  the harsh winter months. Remove the coverings after the danger of a late term snow storm in the spring.

For additional information on rhododendron care, visit the American Rhododendron Society.

Learn more: The Best Time to Prune Lilacs and Rhododendrons.

  • I wish I could send a picture of my rhododendron. It is HUGE! One plant that I haven’t done anything to in over 30 years. Last Fall and this Spring I planted a shoot from it and they’re doing well. Hope they do as well as the mother plant.


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