• Planting and care

Planting and Care

Soil

Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camellias are ericaceous plants, which means to thrive they need an acid soil (sometimes referred to as a lime free soil) with a pH 4.5-6. Use a simple pH testing kit (available from your local garden centre) or look for plantings of Rhododendrons, Azaleas or Camellias in your neighbourhood as a good indicator of suitability. They prefer a well drained soil so avoid areas that become waterlogged, especially in winter.

If your soil is neutral, pH7,  you can grow ericaceous plants. However, you will need to treat the area regularly with a suitable acidifier (available from your local garden centre) and incorporate plenty of organic matter, such as well rotted manure or composted leaf mould, before planting and as an annual mulch.

If your soil is pH7 or above, your ericaceous plants will have to be grown in patio pots using ericaceous compost. (planting in a pot)

Skimmias will grow in moderately fertile hummus rich moist soil and require well drained soil.

Position

Choose an open position or light shade with shelter from strong winds as this will prolong flowering.

Planting

Soak your plant thoroughly in it's pot before planting.

Dig a hole large enough to comfortably accommodate the rootball.

Loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole to aid drainage.

Mix the excavated soil with ericaceous compost or well rotted leaf mould.

Remove the pot and position your plant in the hole, ensuring that the surrounding soil and the top of the rootball are the same level.

Fill around the rootball with the excavated soil and gently firm. Water in well.

Top dress the area with well rotted leaf mould or bark chips to retain moisture and control weeds.

Keep well watered until established - if possible use rain water.

Planting in a pot.

Choose a container approximately 10-20cm wider than the plant, with drainage holes in the bottom. Rhododendrons and Azaleas are shallow rooted so a pot that is wide rather than deep is most suitable, something like a ½ barrel is ideal.

Soak your plant thoroughly in its pot before planting.

Cover the drainage holes with broken pots or polystyrene to aid drainage.

Use a mixture of two thirds Ericaceous compost to one third John Innes No1. Put a layer of compost in the bottom, take your plant out of its original pot and position it in the new pot, ensuring that the top of the rootball is 5cm below the rim of the pot.

Fill around the rootball with compost, firming gently as you go, until the compost and the rootball are at the same level.

Water in well and keep well watered through the summer - if possible use rain water.

To further aid drainage position the pot on ‘pot feet’ or bricks.

Position the pot in an open position or light shade with shelter from strong winds as this will prolong flowering.

Skimmias prefer a container appoximately 10-20cm larger than the plant with drainage holes in the bottom.  Use a mixture of two thirds multi purpose compost and one third John Innes No.1.  Keep well watered throughout the summer with rain water if possible.

Maintenance in the garden

In spring mulch with well rotted leaf mould or bark chips to retain moisture. This is especially important as Rhododendrons and Azaleas are shallow rooted and the mulch will also control weeds. As long as the soil conditions are right, there is no need to feed. If growing in a neutral soil (pH7) you will need to treat the area regularly with a suitable acidifier (available from your local garden centre)

Remove dead flower heads after flowering. This improves the appearance of the plant and directs energy towards producing new growth and flower buds for the following season. Hold the old flower firmly in your hand with your fingers and thumb on the lower part of the main stalk above the developing growth and the old flower should ‘snap’ off easily without damaging the new growth.

No pruning is required.

Maintenance in a pot

In spring top dress with Ericaceous compost plus a little slow release fertiliser.

Remove dead flower heads after flowering. This improves the appearance of the plant and directs energy towards producing new growth and flower buds for the following season. Hold the old flower firmly in your hand with your fingers and thumb on the lower part of the main stalk above the developing growth and the old flower should ‘snap’ off easily without damaging the new growth.

Keep well watered through the summer - if possible use rain water.