Small Growing Rhododendron: A Delicate Flourish
A small-growing Rhododendron makes an ideal subject for a large tub, producing clusters of showyin the Spring or early Summer, atop rich, glossy foliage.
For tub culture, a small-growing Rhododendron is the ideal choice, as it will remain neat and compact for many years. Rhododendron x praecox is one of the earliest-flowering forms, producing beautiful rosy-purple blooms that appear in February and March. Others to look out for include R. ‘Bluebird’, which produces lavender-blue flowers in April, and R. ‘Elizabeth’ with bright scarlet bells atop dark foliage.
Place the tub in a sheltered, semi-shade position. Keep the compost on the dry side in Winter, but water generously when the plant is in active growth. Remove the spent flower heads as they fade to prolong the flowering period.
Watering – These plants require lime-free water; a limey, alkaline water will result in yellow leaves and, ultimately, death. If your mains water leaves limescale deposits in the kettle, it will not be suitable: water with rainwater.
PLANTING THE TUB
If using a wooden half barrel with noholes, drill three or four regularly-spaced holes in the bottom, using a large drill bit. Place crocks over the drainage holes to prevent compost from leaching out during watering.
Rhododendrons are members of the Ericaceous family and demand an ericaceous compost, which is acidic and lime-free. Such compost can be bought ready-made. Fill the barrel to a level 15cm (6in) below the rim and firm lightly.
Turn the Rhododendron upside down and tap the pot sharply to release the rootball. Stand it on the compost in the tub, making sure the top of the rootball is about 2.5cm (1in) below the rim and that the plant is central in the tub.
When you are satisfied with the shrub’s position, fill around the rootball with more compost, firming it lightly, until the tub is full to within 2.5cm (1in) of the rim. Do not bury the plant deeper than it was in its original pot; water well.