PLANT OF THE MONTH: MARCH

RHODODENDRON & AZALEA

The showy spring flowers of the rhododendron and azalea have the wow factor. Azaleas are usually at their best from April to June, with the rhododendron bursting into bloom later in the spring. Now is the perfect time to plant yours and watch them come into their prime over the growing season.

The azalea is a subspecies of the rhododendron. Both are hardy and mostly evergreen, with lush leaves and an abundance of flowers that look gorgeous close up as well as from a distance. Pick your favourite shades, from white, cream, light pink and yellow through to dark red and purples.

In a sheltered spot, they don’t take much care. They can look good planted in front of larger shrubs, which will also give some much needed shade. Originally from woodland, they prefer shady positions, although some can tolerate sunshine. Ask for planting advice in Garsons if you’re unsure.

They prefer acidic soil so if you’re unsure of your soil type, do a soil test. If you don’t have acid soil, plant them with generous amounts of ericaceous compost because both the rhodo and azalea are acid-loving plants. They thrive in moist, well-drained ericaceous soil, and don’t like tap water unless it has been boiled and cooled. Rainwater is ideal.

They look good in containers, which is a sensible option if you don’t have naturally ericaceous soil. Wherever you plant them, add chipped bark around the base, since the roots are quite close to the surface. Once they are established, treat them to a liquid ericaceous fertiliser every couple of weeks right through the flowering season.

Planting companions include the acer, flowering cherry, hydrangea and magnolia. They like space to grow, so don’t crowd them with other plants. The rhododendron and azalea make beautiful houseplants too.

Remember that it’s Mother’s Day on 27th March, so treat your mum to something special. Garsons Card holders have 20% off the Plant of the Month range, which means you can wow her with an azalea or rhododendron in March.  

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