Not the best
What’s wrong with this picture?
This obviously isn’t the best planting job; nor is it a great photograph. If you can, zoom in a little bit to see how the root ball is almost fifty-percent exposed. Roots anchor the rhododendron and seek out water and nutrients for the shrub. They can’t really do their job when they’re exposed to the elements. They just desiccate and die.
I took this picture in summer when the province was in drought conditions. Clearly, the plant is in a rough shape. It’s dead and I wonder if it could have been prevented with better planting.
Planting too deep is just as bad so make sure your root flare-where stem becomes root-is planted at grade or just slightly above to allow for settling.
Why so bad?
I hate to rush when I’m planting trees and shrubs but let’s be honest, workers are usually under pressure to put stuff in the ground and move on. So, why is the rhododendron dead?
One problem is planting in newly installed amender or lawn and garden mix. When the soil is installed it’s nice and fluffy but it does settle over time. And it also decomposes or gets washed away by rain. Now, if the rhododendron was planted in the fluffy stuff which subsequently settled, it could result in the trouble we see above.
It’s best to plant your shrubs in native soil and then put amender around the plants but not against the stems. I don’t like planting directly into amender; it’s always preferable to plant into native soils.
We also don’t know if the shrub got enough water post-planting. I suspect it didn’t because this is a non-irrigated site. Another, less obvious problem, is that the amender is fairly warm on the day it’s installed. Planting new shrubs into it can damage the roots. It’s best to plant later or water the planting holes at install time.
Proper planting also saves cash. Somebody had to plant the rhododendron, and somebody had to pay for it. Replanting it takes time; and replacing it is also expensive. Let’s just do it right the first time so we can have a healthy landscape that will inspire the residents. When I look at the picture above, I’m close to depression. We can do better.