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April 10, 2010
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Frequently Asked Questions  

1. will deer eat hydrangea trees

Yes, hydrangeas are not deer resistant.
2. My rhododendron has brown spots that have developed on the edges of the leaves, including this year's growth. All leaves were healthy when it was planted in May. How can I control this?

Brown or black tips and edges of rhododendron leaves is almost always a sign of over watering, or poor drainage. It would be our advise to lift the plant, recondition the hole with more bark, sand, perlite to improve the drainage, then replant the rhododendron. Make sure it is planted "high" rather than down in a depression. If you have the plant on a water system, you might want to change the setting so it gets water less often and can dry out between waterings. You will have to be the judge of this, as your climate may be very hot and dry. The only other reason a rhododendron would have brown or black edges is burning by fertilizer, or sunscald. These could be the other possibility. Sunscald is caused by a spike in temperature, like a heat wave. This will turn your leaves black, but will not kill the plant.
3. when is the best time to plant drarf conifers?

In colder parts of the country I would plant in spring when the ground warms up. In milder, coastal areas, just about anytime works, although fall works best as they can become established over the milder winters we have.
4. I'm in zone 9 - 10. How much watering does thymus serpyllum require while it is getting established? Any other care tips?

Thymus ser 'Elfin Thyme' does require some moisture while it is getting estalished. We recommend a mixture of peat moss and sand when planting, as the peat will hold water, while the sand give the drainage that it likes. Water every day for the first week, then less after that. When is begins to grow and spread, it needs only a little water, maybe weekly or biweekly.
5. what does Hardy to Zone 5 mean? It won't grow at zones 6 and above? I live in LA Ca. w/full sun hillside

Hardiness zones apply to winter low temperatures. Hardy to zone 5 would mean that the plant would survive if the winter low temperature did not go below -20F. Living in Los Angeles, you will not need to be concerned about low temperature hardiness. However, some plants do require some winter cool temperatures, and other plants would not like the alkaline soils and water of Southern California.
6. In your description of a certain rhododendron, you state it holds its foliage for three years. What happens after 3 years?

After 3 years, those 3 year old leaves drop off. The 2 year leaves, 1 year leaves, and current season’s leaves all stay on the plant, giving it a nice full look. Plants that only hold their leaves for 1 year sometimes look spindly as only the current season’s growth is held on to. This is a genetic phenomenon, and cannot be controlled by plant care.
7. I need a small tree for in front of my picture window?

I would probably recommend a dwarf conifer like the Chamaecyparis obtusa types. These generally will not grow above 3-4 ft tall, so will not block a window.
8. How does the Hydrangea plant change colors from pink to blue?

Anthocyanins are pigments that are generallyconsidered responsible for the color of most pink and blue flowers like hydrangeas. These pigments tend to be pink when the ph is above 5.0 and bluish when the ph is below 5.0. So by changing the ph of your soil, you can change the flower color of your hydrangeas.
9. do rhododendrons have a special scent ?

There are lots of different scents in the genus rhododendron. Some smell like nutmeg, like Rh. 'Heaven Scent', others like honeysuckle, like Rh. 'Coastal Spice' or Rh. 'Cowbell', or Rh. 'Mcnabii'. Then there is Rh. 'Award' that grows very large, has beautiful white-pink-yellow flowers and smells like rootbeer. The exotic, tropical looking Rh. nuttallii rhododenrons like Rh. Mi Amor has a strong fragrance, but is hard to identify. You will have to pay close attention to the zone you live in, as many of these plants are tender.
10. Can you tell me when it is the best time to transplant hydrangeas? I have a couple that are in the direct sun and are not growing or blooming very much, so want to move them to a more shady spot.

Winter time is the best time to transplant hydrangeas, unless you are under snow, then I would pick early spring when the ground is workable. Prune the hydrangea when transplanted and it will send out new shoots when the soil warms up in the spring, or early summer.
11. Hello, I need some pruning info for rhododendrons. Mine are older and about 12 feet tall and about 6 feet wide. They are truely beautiful however they are right in front of our house and we would like to prune them down to a height in which one can see the house.

Most rhododendrons will respond well to pruning, especially if they have a good root system. The best time to prune is in the spring right after they bloom, however if you do not care about the loss of flowers, I would prune even earlier. I also recommend a good dose of rhododendron fertililzer one month before you prune. This gives the plant lots of energy to break out new branches along the stems. It does not matter where you prune, as there are dormant “eyes” along all of the branches. We suggest taking one third of a plant per year. This gets the plant down in size without really causing major stress. If your plants have foliage below the height you want to prune to, 5 ft., then I would go ahead and cut all branches that are above 5 ft. The leaves below can still photosynthesize and offer energy to the plant. If there are no leaves below 5 ft, then I would only take 1/3 to ½ of the branches off. You should know, however, that pruning them to 5 ft. will cause them to be 5 ft tall only temporarily. They will begin their growth back to their current size right away, and in a few years will be right back to the same size. If you were to continually prune them every year, they will decline in vigor, and begin to look poorly and not bloom much. If you have a place away from the house that these plants could be moved to, and then smaller growing rhododendrons planted in their place, you would be happier in the long run. Rhododendrons can be moved no matter how big as their root system is very shallow.
12. I live in zone 6-7 and I am interested in growing a dwarf conifer in a large container ( 30

I could make several suggestions as to dwarf conifers that would grow well in a container, not get too big, and would thrive in your zone. 1. Cedrus deodara 'Feelin' Blue'...a nice dwarf conifer that would be interesting and could be pruned to stay the size you want. 2. Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Blue Surprise' might be a good choice, although it may get too big for you. 3. Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Intermedia' would be a neat plant that would never out grow your container and could have other plants around it. 4. Tsuga heterphylla 'Thorsen' is a great weeping plant that can be kept to the size you want.
13. You have a great assortmrnt of plants. I would like to order but have a concern about the shipping dates. Your site says shipping is through March. It's a little early for me. I live on Long Island, N.Y (zone 7) can the shipping be delayed until late April.

Hello, yes, we can delay shipping to you until April. When you order, you can request a shipping date in the "Personal Message" box right before you enter your credit card info.
14. Hello. I have 5 rhododendrons that have been growing at the southwest corner of our house for 20 - 25 years. Two of them were dug out last fall for some foundation work, and replanted. They did fine until August, when they got very hot and dry. We then proceeded to water them, it turns out, too much. We dug them out in September and put them in large, well drained tubs in a shady corner. One has recovered fairly well, the other looks like 3/4 of the branches will lose all leaves. I would like to replant them with amended soil, since I think the problem began with clay soil in the replanting, and also being too low. My question is, how much should I prune the more stressed plant? It's root system in very small. I live in Indiana, where growing them is a challenge. Thank you.

Rhododendrons typically love very well drained soil with lots of organic matter. In clay soils that have poor drainage, they are challenged to the point that often they die. The reason is root rot. This fungal disease attacks and eats off the tips of the root hairs so the plant cannot take up water. The symptoms are a wilted plant that looks thirsty, which in fact it is, but since the roots have been eaten off, it cannot take up any water. The plant will dry up and drop all of its leaves. Root rot thrives in warm, soggy soils, so your description leads me to believe that this is what happened. Since the disease is still in the soil, we recommend that you remove much of the old soil before planting another plant or the next plant will die too. It is alway advisable to plant rhododendrons in raised beds that have lots of barky, free draining soil. You can prune off the branches with no leaves and re-plant them, but it may be too late, and if the root system is very small, you will be waiting a long time for a recovery, if it ever does. Sorry for the bad news, but I have never been able to save a rhododendron that had root rot. For the plant that seems to be recovering, I would advise planting it in lots of pine bark...this material has an anti-root rot quality.

I am sorry but our online catalog is all that we have at this time.
16. I have several rhododendrons planted in my back yard. Some bloom well every year, while others hardly ever bloom. Why?

There are several criteria that must be satisfied before rhododendrons will bloom well. The first is light. Rhododendron plants must receive enough light in order to produce their flower buds. The light on the north side of a house is generally enough to produce some flowering, but if planted under a canopy of heavy shade trees, the plants may never bloom. Another condition that is important for good blooming is timely feeding with a well- balanced fertilizer. We feed twice a year, before bloom and after bloom, but if you were only to feed once a year, we would recommend that you do it after the plants have finished blooming. One more reason that rhododendrons might be shy bloomers is genetics. Some rhododendrons are genetically shy bloomers, and no matter how much light or food they are given, they just don't perform. Usually these are species rhododendrons, but some old hybrids may qualify.
17. What is the difference between rhododendrons and azaleas?

Actually, azaleas are rhododendrons...that is, they are in the family of rhododendrons. Scientifically, the difference between rhododendrons and azaleas can be found in their flowers. A rhododendron flower will have twice the number of stamens (pollen producing parts) as it has lobes on the flower blossom. So if there are 5 lobes , there will be 10 stamens. In the azalea flower, the number of stamens is close to the number of lobes in the flower blossom, usually 5-6.
18. I would like to move a large rhododendron. When is the best time to dig and move it?

Since rhododendrons have shallow, fiberous roots, they can be moved just about anytime. We would suggest that you consider moving it in the late fall, or winter months when the plant is in a more dormant mode. This way the plant will enjoy the natural rains of winter and will begin to establish a new root system before spring.
19. Do heathers need to be pruned and when?

It is necessary to prune most Calluna vulgaris cultivars each year after flowering. These plants do not sprout from old wood, so you must prune the plant after flowering every year. We prune back to where the lowest flowers appeared on the stem. This pruning will insure a more healthy plant that stays compact and full. It also promotes better blooming the next time around. The Ericas generally do not need pruning. They can be cut back to insure compactness, but usually continue to bloom well each season with only an occasional pruning at two to three year intervals.
20. Do all ornamental grasses need to be cut back?

In general, all of the deciduous grasses need to be cut back each year. However, as some of these offer wonderful colors and forms throughout the winter months, as well as food and shelter for wildlife, it is often recommended to cut them back in early spring, just before they begin to re-grow. Many of the evergreen grasses and sedges do not need to be cut back yearly and may grow attractively for several years with just minor grooming. Then there are a handful of great grasses that just die back completely on their own and reappear in the spring. No maintenance required, except to pick up the dead leaves.
21. when to prune hydrangeas

It is best to prune your hydrangeas in early spring before they start to leaf out again. Also, be sure to prune out the oldest wood first, as it will not be producing flower stalks this year. Last year's growth will be providing most of the flowering this coming spring and summer.
22. will deer eat my rhody flowers and leaves?

Deer generally leave rhododendrons alone, however, I have heard that the young fawns will sometimes taste the new growth or flowers. They will seldon, if ever eat the shrub to the ground.
23. I'm local in Eureka and have a problem with deer. I love to see them in the yard but what trees can I plant they won't eat? I have Rodies but would like others.

We have many deer that roam through the gardens here and our mix of plants are very deerproof. All of the dwarf conifers, ornamental grasses, and heather along with the rhododendrons are very immune to deer. Hydrangeas and azaleas will be eaten along with camillias, but any tree if protected until above the reach of deer will be ok too.
24. cutting grasses

We cut most of the ornamental grasses to within 6" of the ground in March. This will result in nice, fresh new growth that is very attractive.
25. Dear Sir, I love your Mi Amor but it's for zone 8a. I'm in 7a. I still would like to take a risk and try to grow it. Is there a way to protect tender Rhodos overwinter? Thanks.

Rhododendron 'Mi Amor' is very exotic, yet very tender. If you live in zone 7a, you would have to bring the plant into a greenhouse or other protection area for the winter for survival. I do know several people who do this and have very large plants growing in half barrels that they wheel into a protection greenhouse every winter. Then after the danger of freezing temperatures is past, they wheel the plant out onto their deck for the spring bloom. I know it is a hassle, but if you want to have a R. Mi Amor in your zone, this is one way that would work. Good Luck.
26. My rhododendrons are getting large brown spots on their leaves. What is happening? What do I need to do to fix the problem?

These spots can be perplexing. They can be caused by a variety of things. Often, it is frost or freeze damage that occured in the winter. The sustained cold damaged the tissues of the leaves, which them became infected with some sort of fungus. Spraying with a general fungicide when these black spots are first noticed will sometimes prevent more spotting, but in general these spots are not contageous to other rhododendrons, and when the plants send out their new leaves, you will cease to notice the brown spots on the older leaves. Once these leaves become discolored, it is difficult if not impossible to retrieve the original green color. If the new leaves emerge and become spotted right away, then there is a problem. Let me know at that time and I will give you some more info.
27. When is the best time to prune rhododendrons?

Pruning rhododendrons must take place just after flowering for the best re-growth. For a detailed explanation of rhododendron pruning, check out our 'Plant Care Info' link at the bottom of the page. Here you will find our 'Six Steps to Success Growing Rhododendrons'.


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