Rhododendrons are ready

BY BOB SOUVESTRE

Photo provided by Southern Living -- The Southgate series of rhododendrons specifically bred to tolerate southern heat are now available to home gardeners in colors of pink, lavender and white.
Photo provided by Southern Living -- The Southgate series of rhododendrons specifically bred to tolerate southern heat are now available to home gardeners in colors of pink, lavender and white.

Some new, heat-tolerant rhododendron cultivars are coming from the Southern Living Plant Collection. These were developed to thrive in the Deep South while performing equally well in traditional rhododendron areas.

The Southgate hybrids bloom in early April in south Louisiana and were developed by John Thornton, of Franklinton.

These plants have been trialed in the New Orleans area and in their City Park Botanical Gardens for several years. And now wholesale production and commercial branding are making them available to gardeners throughout the South. Five varieties are available.

Southgate Breezy, Radiance and Divine all grow to 4 feet tall by 5 feet wide in 10 years while Brandi grows to 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide. Grace reaches 4 feet tall by 6 feet wide in a decade.

Rhododendrons require cultural conditions similar to azaleas. Shade during portions of the day, especially early to late afternoons, is needed. The soil pH required for optimum growth is 5.5.

Soils need to be enriched with organic matter and it is important to plant in raised beds 8 to 12 inches high. Mulch with pine straw.

Maintain uniformity in soil moisture for best success. Do not plant deeper than what plants were growing in the containers.

Use caution

With all the activity of spring planting and adding trees, shrubs, ground covers, perennials and bedding plants to the landscape, this is also a time to be cautious about creating problems that could bring termites into your home.

LSU AgCenter experts offer these suggestions to reduce the possibility of termite problems:

Avoid landscape timbers, railroad ties or other wooden materials that may serve as food for termites.

Garden chores

Some garden chores to consider during April include the following:

Apply a drench of imidacloprid insecticide to the base of the tree and the tree will be protected from aphids all summer.

Save the date

The Master Gardener plant sale is April 13-14 at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens, 4560 Essen Lane.

Check out the plants for sale at http://www.mgplantsale.com.

Got a gardening question? Write to Bob Souvestre, horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter, at Burden Center, 4560 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70809, or email to bsouvestre@agcenter.lsu.edu, or call Master Gardeners at (225) 763-3990.