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Q: What is a rhododendron bush? What type of climate should it be in and what time of the year should it be planted? How much water and sun-light would it need?

Thank you!

A: A rhododendron is an ericaceous plant (meaning it's in the heath family, which includes heather, blueberry, rhododendron and azalea) that is prized mainly for it's large, colorful flowers. In fact, rhododendron comes from Greek for "rose" and "tree".

Although it's usually considered to be a shrub, I've seen some specimens over 12' tall, at which point I guess you could call it a small tree.

There are rhodos suitable for many different climates, so I would advise visiting your local nursery or garden center to see what they have available -- they should carry the plants suitable for your area. You should find many available this spring, which would be an OK time to plant.

As for sun or shade, different cultivars of rhodos have different sunlight requirements, so when you go to purchase your rhodos be sure to tell them how much sunlight you would expect the rhodos to get on a daily basis. They should be able to help you pick out the right cultivars as a result.

Rhodos don't like heavy soils, so if your soil is heavy or compacted you'll need to take extra caution when planting. Dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball, and thoroughly break up the soil before replacing it in the hole.

You can settle the soil by gently walking on it or using water. Afterward, a once-a-week watering should be adequate during normal weather.

The rule of thumb is that trees & shrubs need about 1" of water every 7-10 days, which translates to about 1 gallon per square foot.

If you get one inch of rain in any given week, you should be able to forgo watering for another 7-10 days.

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