Cultivating Florence’s rhododendron connection

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Tips for taking rhododendron cuttings for shows and how to start your own plants

April 17, 2023 — The early Rhododendron Spring Show is this weekend on April 15 and 16. For plants that aren’t blooming yet, there is a second show on Rhody Days from May 20 to 21. Here’s more information on how to prepare blooms for the shows and how to plant rhododendrons.

You don’t need to be a botanist or expert on rhododendrons to enter the show. All members of the community with a blooming rhody are invited. To do so is easy. Choose a truss that is as unspoiled as possible and equally healthy in foliage. Do not trim the leaves to appear clean. The stem should be long enough to reach water in a small vase.

There is no limit to the number of submissions, only a limit to the number of submissions per plant (one). If you don’t know the name of the plant, don’t worry. The Rhody Society will identify it for you.

To enter your flowers in the Rhody Shows at the Florence Events Center arrive between 7-9 a.m. on April 15 and May 20.

Don’t have any rhodies but want to participate? That’s not a problem. Right now and fall are the best times to plant these varied and beautiful shrubs. This allows the plant time to acclimate to its new surroundings prior to the dryer season.

There are some tricks to ensure success: 

-Get a plant that will become the size you want in ten years.  Time goes fast and these plants do not stop growing.  A simple internet search of the plant's specific name and “growth in ten years” will give you a good idea of a mature plant's size. 

-Double check sun requirements. Many rhodies will burn in the sun while others will wither in the shade. Often (but not always), the larger and smoother the leaf, the less tolerant of sun. Azaleas on the other hand (a member of the rhody genus) often do better in the sun.

-Florence’s soil could be described as more sand than soil.  To combat this, you will need to mix some mulch and some quality dirt into your planting medium.  Rhodies often grow under coniferous trees, flourishing in the naturally acidic soil. Keep this in mind when preparing the dirt.

-When planting, prepare an area that is twice the distance of the widest branches and twice the depth of the root ball. Place the root ball on a small mound of dirt inside the hole to anticipate the soil settling. Do not cover the bark of the trunk.

-Location is important. Make sure to think ahead by planting away from siding or below windows where you want to maintain access.

After planting, you may want to know how to increase flowering.  Use a rhody and azalea-specific fertilizer and feed the plant in the spring with subsequent monthly feedings until fall. The first year, the plant will require regular watering but as its roots become developed, this need will reduce.

Be patient and enjoy the process. The plant will tell you what it needs.