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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - June 02, 2008

From: New Britain, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Planting, Shrubs
Title: Non-blooming rhododendron in Connecticut
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

A two or three yr old rhododendron has not blossomed - ever! All other plants in landscape doing well, but not this one. Help

ANSWER:

Rhododendron is a large Genus with over 1000 species, including plants known to gardeners as azaleas. Rhododendrons are very widely distributed occurring through most of the Northern Hemisphere except for dry areas, extending into the Southern Hemisphere through Indo-China, Korea and Japan. Tropical rhododendrons occur from southeast Asia to northern Australia, as well as Borneo and New Guinea. This plant has been extensively hybridized, and tracing its parentage could be very difficult. However, most rhododendrons and azaleas are at their best in fairly mild, humid climates. See this University of Missouri Extension Growing Azaleas and Rhododendrons for more information.

Rhododendrons are grown commercially in many areas for sale, and are occasionally collected in the wild, a practice now rare in most areas. Larger commercial growers often ship long distances; in North America, most of them are located on the west coast, Oregon, Washington and California. Large-scale commercial growers often select for different characteristics than home gardeners might want, such as resistance to root rot when over-watered, ability to be forced into budding early, ease of rooting or other propagation, and saleability. So, you're gardening in Connecticut and getting plants from your nursery that may be non-native in origin and grown on the West Coast in mild, humid areas. We don't think that means your plant is never going to bloom, we just think it might not be mature enough, yet. You do need to check that your plant is in an acid soil, well-drained and high in organic matter. Generally, these are considered understory, part shade plants, but they do need a certain amount of sun to bloom well, so if it's too dark where your rhododendron is, that might be the problem. If you decide that your plant is simply in the wrong place, they have fibrous, shallow roots and transplant well, but it would be better to wait until early Fall when the plant will be more dormant.

 

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