Rhododendron decline

Asked February 13, 2020, 10:58 AM EST

Hi, I had submitted a question a few years ago when one of our Rhodos bloomed as usual in the spring and then suddenly died. I believe I was told that it was a fungus that lives in the soil when it's wet. (That had been an extremely wet spring.) So...we have lost a 2nd and will probably also have to take out a 3rd this year. I want to plant something else in there, but am afraid the same thing will happen. Do you have a recommendation of a mid-sized flowering shrub that wouldn't be susceptible to the same disease? I was wondering about doublefile vibernum. This is a north-facing spot on the back of our house. Thanks in advance,

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

The disease your rhododendron had was probably phytophthora: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/phytophthora-root-rot-shrubs
At the bottom of this page is a list of disease-resistant rhododendrons if you're interested.

If this site is in full shade most of the time, a doublefile viburnum may not be too happy, since it prefers sun to part shade. Additionally, it is considered a non-native invasive plant (though not one of the worst ones.)

Clethra (Summersweet) is a nice native shrub with fragrant summer lilac-like flowers that attract butterflies. They take full shade. So do buttonbush, which are also butterfly magnets, have very unusual cool flowers. They like moist soil.

Take a look online at the shrub section of "native Plants for Wildlife Habitt and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed" which has color photos and has good charts with sun and moisture requirements.

If you can see this spot from inside your house, consider a shrub that produces berries for winter interest. Winterberry is one of the most flashy, is native and feeds birds.