Rhododendrons and Azaleas
At this time of the year in the garden there is nothing to compare with the sight of a Rhododendron in full bloom. Rhododendron are truly stunning shrubs which are easily recognizable with their lance shaped shiny green leaves and their huge clusters of pink, purple, red, orange, yellow or white flowers which appear in spring and early summer. Rhododendrons have been popular in Ireland since the middle of the nineteenth century, and years of successful plant breeding has produced plants of every shape size imaginable, most of which will live quite happily in Irelands changeable weather conditions. While azaleas are usually classed as a distinct group of plants in the gardening world, in reality they are all part of the Rhododendron family, the main difference being that Azaleas generally form a more compact shrub.
Rhododendrons and Azaleas are very easy plants to look after and will grow away happily with little or no care if they are planted in the right conditions. In the gardening world Rhododendrons and Azaleas are classed as acid loving plants. This means that they need an acid soil of PH5 or below to survive. Soil testing kits are widely available from garden centres, and these can be easily used to determine the PH of the soil in your garden. If the soil PH is higher than five the plant will quite quickly become sickly and the leaves will turn yellow. If the soil in your garden turns out to be unsuitable dont worry Azaleas can be successfully grown in containers using ericaceous (lime free) compost. Along with acidic soil these plants also like to be planted in partial shade, away from cold winds. While these plants prefer partial shade they will also thrive in full sun provided their roots dont get dried out.
Rhododendrons and Azaleas are also good plants for the lazy gardener as they have a very shallow root system, which means that they are both easy to plant and easy to transplant.