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Rhododendron Dora Amateis

My 10 year old Rhodo Dora Amateis had been struggling a bit so last autumn I moved it to a more sheltered spot, in ericaceous compost and bonemeal where it has overwintered. I thought all was well when it was covered in blooms but they failed to open and the (very sparse) leaves have browned. Please can anyone advise me on helping to restore it?  As the leaves are just at the very ends of the spindly looking branches, could I prune it back?  If so, when would be the best time?

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  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,404

    Can you offer a bit more info Sue?

    What size is it, and when you say you moved it - is it in a pot? Buds which don't open are usually caused by the plant being too dry last summer when the buds are forming. Sun can cause a bit of bleaching to foliage too - most rhodos and azaleas perform better with some shade, although in the ground, they tend to thrive better and can withstand quite a bit of sun as long as it isn't in a fiercely hot spot all the time. Although they like moist conditions, they also need decent drainage.

    If all the foliage is all at the ends of the branches, it clearly isn't healthy. It does sound as if it's been sickly for a while. 

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Sue HighamSue Higham Posts: 83

    Thanks for replying Fairygirl!

    The shrub is about 2ft high x 3ft spread.  In hindsight I think it's been sickly for a few years but was only really noticeable last summer.  I suspected it was being starved of moisture by  competition and full sun, which is why I moved it to a more sheltered spot in more of a woodland setting.

    It also sits next to a Lutea which is very happy and I would have thought they'd both like the same conditions.  It's in the ground and the soil is light and well drained, though it was planted in plenty of  ericaceous compost.   Was bonemeal perhaps the wrong slow release fertiliser to use?

    For a while throughout our mild winter it did look as if it was recovering.  I was thrilled when I saw it covered in flower buds but it's all gone terribly wrong!

    The upper parts of the branches are so spindly, they don't look as if they would produce any new shoots, hence my question about pruning.

    The worst thing is ... it was a birthday gift from friends!

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,404

    Hi Sue - if the soil's light that won't be great. Also, if it's next to an established luteum, that will be using up a lot of moisture - they're thirsty plants. I'm assuming if you've had it that long, it's not been pot bound, and the roots have actually got out into the soil further away? I think if you beef up the area it's in with some better soil and perhaps some well rotted manure, so that there's a bit more substance to the growing medium, that will help. It still needs good drainage though. 

    Having said that, if it's been struggling for a while, it might be too late. If it was mine, I'd prune it back to a healthy leaf joint, and give it some decent soil/manure to grow in. Water well and mulch after watering. Have you a photo of it from a bit further away, to give an idea of where it's growing too? That will help with advice   image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Sue HighamSue Higham Posts: 83

    Hi Fairygirl

    I took a long hard look at my Rhody and decided that it was never going to improve as it stood so, rightly or wrongly, I've pruned it.  Not too hard - just enough to take out dead wood and have left a few branches where there were some leaves, to see if they recover.  I've also given it an ericaceous feed so now it's just a question of waiting and watching.  

    Thanks for your help!  I'll post the outcome when it becomes clear. image

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,404

    Hi Sue - I hope it recovers for you. I think improving the soil and keeping an eye on it regarding water etc is as much as you can do. Try and avoid overfeeding and improve the soil it's in instead,  as that will have a better long term benefit. 

    Then cross your fingers and wait image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Sue HighamSue Higham Posts: 83

    Thanks, Fairygirl

    I planted the shrub into a ericaceous compost with light addition of bonemeal.  Would you recommend top dressing with the same compost?

    Yes, I'll go easy on the feed.  I'm aware nothing likes being force-fed when it doesn't feel well - including ourselves!  

    Best, Sue

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