I have two huge rhododendrons that appear to be dying. The leaves are brown and even the new sprouts wilt and die. Can I add something to my soil to help or did the ice storm permanently damage them?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Rebecca: Since your rhododendrons are putting on new growth I do not think we can blame the problem entirely on the ice storm. I am not saying that your plants were not damaged by the storms, but the wilting of the new growth may be a secondary ailment. It is difficult to say for sure but from what you have mentioned it sounds like they may be suffering from root damage. Most cultivars of rhododendrons are susceptible to the fungus phytophthora, which can cause root rot. This is especially true when they are planted in poorly drained soil and the clay we have here in Kentucky is not the best in terms of drainage. Unfortunately it is often too late to save the plants after these symptoms appear. You can check the base of the plant by peeling back the bark to see if there is any brown discoloration of the tissue. If this is the case there is little you can do, but if it looks green and healthy then this is not the problem and you should take a sample of the foliage to your County Extension Service for the horticulture/agriculture agent(s) for them to look at.