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The genus Rhododendron belongs to the heather family and needs like almost all species of this large plant family an acid, lime free and very humus rich soil. Common rhododendrons are also referred to as moor bed plants - but this is not quite correct: Although they grow optimally on the very loose, dehydrated peat soils of Lower Ammerland, the main growing area in Europe. In an intact bog, however, they would go down, because the soil is too wet and too nutrient-poor here.
The natural habitat of most rhododendron species is light, cool deciduous forests with high humidity and very loose and airy soils of deciduous humus. The flowering shrubs are usually rooted only in the thick humus layer and are hardly anchored in the mineral subsoil. In the garden, it is important to simulate these conditions as much as possible in order to succeed with rhododendrons. It is best to have a clear shade under larger, deciduous shrubs with not too aggressive root system, so that an annual supply of autumn leaves is taken care of - it is important to leave the leaves in the bed so that a natural layer of humus can develop over the years.
Until that happens, the soil must be loosened and artificially enriched with humus: Old gardeners from the Ammerland swear in this regard on well rotted cow dung. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to get in many places, so you have to fall back on alternatives. In the nursery is usually used white peat - advisable but a peat-free alternative to protect the bogs. Well suitable, for example, bark compost that - pure or mixed 1: 1 with half-decomposed autumn leaves - as large as possible about 25 to 30 inches deep is incorporated.
In very loamy soils additional drainage is required so that the sensitive roots of the rhododendron are not in the water after heavy rainfall. Dig a 50-centimeter-deep, large planting hole and fill the bottom with a 20-centimeter-high layer of lime-free gravel or building sand.
Step by step: How to plant a rhododendron
Cut out rhododendron with large root ball (left) and enlarge the planting hole to double the diameter (right)
The best time for the rescue operation is early to mid-April. Prick the shrub with large root ball and set it aside. Rhododendrons, which have been vegetating in the same location for years, can still be removed without difficulty - they are often not properly rooted anyway. Enlarge the planting hole to at least twice the diameter. The soil can be reused elsewhere in the garden.
Fill the plant hole with soil (left) and then replace the rhododendron (right)
Now you can either fill a mixture of bark and foliage compost or special rhododendron earth from specialist retailers into the planting hole. The rhododendron is put back into the planting hole, a little higher than it used to be. The top of the bale should easily protrude from the ground. Straighten it out, but do not cut back the shrub - he would not survive.
At the end, gently poke and sprinkle the special soil
After filling in the rest of the special soil, lightly start it around with your foot. Then pour the replanted rhododendron thoroughly with rainwater and sprinkle a handful of horn chips in the root area as a start fertilizer. Finally, the soil under the shrub is covered about five centimeters high with bark humus or bark mulch.