My mom gave me this shrub/tree/bush a few years back. She told me it was a rhododendron but had no other information. I live on the border of Zone 4 and 5 in the Lake Michigan basin. I planted it on the north east corner of my house in pretty much full maple tree shade. It hasn't done very well where it is but it has bloomed twice so far (as you can see in the pics).

  • Does anyone know the common/scientific name?
  • Does this plant require full sun? How much should I water? How much should I fertilize?
  • I've never covered it over the winter, should I and how should I?

I've attempted trying to tie it up over the winter but the branches are so scraggly that I was afraid I'd break/kill what little remains. Any help with this plant would be awesome.

With flowers

Entire plant without flowers

  • Can I cut off the stems that have no growth?
    – Albion
    May 23 '12 at 17:38

It's a rhododendron, probably a cultivar like PJM

  • partial shade to full sun
  • prefers moist, cool, acidic, well-drained, organic soil. Lots of peat moss helps
  • much more soil adaptable than most rhododendrons
  • avoid harsh, dry, windswept sites
  • you can wrap it in burlap or other windproofing material to protect from leaf burn in the winter
  • And if you don't kill it, keep it under control. They can grow to be house-sized in the right conditions... May 23 '12 at 16:37
  • @ Alex you're right but I can count on the fingers of one hand the rhododendrons that I've seen that are larger than a bushel basket and located in USDA Zone 4 and lower.
    – kevinskio
    May 23 '12 at 16:59
  • Yeah, you'd have to have a protected, sunny side of a building or something. May 23 '12 at 17:34
  • 2
    @Alex Growing broadleaf evergreens in the Midwest is very different from similar zones on the East coast of the U.S. In Midwestern USDA zones 4 and 5, January and February are usually very sunny as well as very cold. Hence, the south or west side of a building is the very worst place to put a broadleaf evergreen. Unless the plant is completely covered in snow, it will be winter burned every spring. Eastern and Northern exposures are prefered. Jun 11 '12 at 20:48

From the morphology of the leaves and the shape of the buds, it's definitely a Rhododendron. I'd advise fertilizing with an acidifying product like MirAcid or Hollytone.

  • +1 on applying (correct) fertilizer. In my limited experience (zone 5b), it seems to make a big difference in the amount of winterkill on all broadleaf evergreens. But that may just be the change in climate.
    – Ed Staub
    May 25 '12 at 14:06

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