New Rhododendron not taking so well

Asked May 30, 2018, 10:36 AM EDT

I just planted a Rhododendron in a mostly shady area. It gets a few hours of sunlight during the day. The Rhododendron leaves are soft and wilted over. I water it regularly, not sure what to do. Thanks!

Multnomah County Oregon

6 Responses

More than likely, the shrub isn’t able to absorb enough water to support the top. So, while we try to resolve this problem, rig temporary shade and a temporary windbreak.

Please send several images which will help to answer some questions: (1) the shrub and its surroundings; (2) the rhododendron, alone; (3) a close view of an affected branch with leaves.

When you send the images, also explain the following: (1) How you prepared the planting hole; (2) the size of the plant (e.g. 5-gallon; 15; or?); (3) how you have been watering, including precisely where the water was added, also the amount; (4) did you add fertilizer; If yes, how much and what kind; and (5) how many hours of sunlight daily.

Add any additional information you think may be helpful.

I look forward to receiving your images and information.


Here are the answers to the questions! In all honesty, I am a new gardener. This is my first year in planting things around my house.

  • How you prepared the planting hole? Dug out a whole about 1.5 times as large as the root wad, planted the plant at even depth so the top of the original potting soil was even with the new dirt surface.
  • The size of the plant (e.g. 5-gallon; 15; or)? 5-gallon or maybe 8-gallon. Definitely not 15-gallon
  • How you have been watering, including precisely where the water was added, also the amount? Heavy watering right after planting, then watering every other day with a liberal amount of water. Backed off of watering after the plant showed a sustained "droopiness." Now re-watering but a little more lightly every other day.
  • Did you add fertilizer; If yes, how much and what kind? Yes I did, it was E.B.Stone Organics, Rhody, Azalea and Camellia Food. I used about half a cup mixed in with the soil.
  • How many hours of sunlight daily? Not a lot of direct sunlight. Probably four hours or so daily.
Thank you for your help!!


Thanks for the excellent responses and images. Precisely what I need.

Img 1968 is most telling.The bark section of the lowest branch is a very dark color, indicating it has a canker caused by a disease; the black part is dead, or soon will be.
And the main stem going toward the left has a split in the bark indicating another problem. This plant should be replaced.

If the seller has a return policy, I suggest you contact them to determine how to handle that. Some sellers want the old plant returned, some don't. If they won't exchange it, consider this as a learning experience, then discard the plant in the trash. (Don't put it on the curb because someone will "rescue" it.)

I realize that is bad news. But, take heart. Every gardener is a beginner at one time.
Gardening is one of those live-and-learn things. You'll get better as you grow.

Just for good measure, and perhaps as an unexpected bonus, see "Growing Your Own," an overview of vegetable gardening. I realize that rhododendrons aren't veggies, but the principles of growing flowers and veggies are very similar. If you're considering vegetables, know that page 7 is a chart telling when to plant what. (You're in Region 2.) (

Oh, yes.
The soil looks bone dry. It would be an excellent to moisten the area as if it's a garden bed, then add an organic mulch. (Mulch is organic stuff you add to the soil surface to help retain any moisture which is added.) See "Mulching Woody Ornamentals with Organic Matter" at

As a new gardener, you'll likely have many questions while you garden. The Multnomah County Master gardeners provide one-on-one help via phone calls, walk-ins, and emails. They're at Montgomery Park, 2701 NW Vaughn St. Suite 450, Portland, OR 97210. Phone 503–445–4608. Hours are 10 AM to 2 PM, Monday through Friday, closed holidays.

Enjoy your garden!

You are so helpful!! Thank you so much!