Flowers, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants, Watering

Rhododendrons and azaleas usually bear their spectacular, large, often scented flowers in spring – but do you know the difference between the two?

Well, both are in the genus Rhododendron –  but azaleas can be distinguished by having five stamens per flower (one per lobe), whereas rhododendrons have 10 or more (two per lobe). Azaleas can be deciduous or evergreen but rhododendrons are all evergreen. Finally there is a difference in size. Azaleas are small to medium shrubs – rhododendrons range from prostrate shrubs to huge trees.

Within this guide you will find information about some of the different varieties of rhododendron and azaleas, as well as information about how to successfully plant and maintain your own.

Main Species

There are more than 28,000 rhododendron or azalea hybrids, as the plants readily cross breed. However, here are the most popular varieties for gardeners:

  • Hybrids or hardy hybrids: What gardeners would consider a ‘traditional’ rhododendron with large flower trusses, some scented, blooming anywhere between January until July – often growing very large.
  • Dwarf rhododendrons: Mainly alpine varieties, ranging from 20cm-80cm, flowering in April.
  • Yakushimanum: Mound-shaped plants reaching 80-100cm, often with unusual leaves. Many brilliant flower colours available.
  • Williamsianum: Unusual rounded leaves, 80-100cm.
  • Deciduous azaleas: Sun lovers, growing up to 150cm, often scented, (especially R. luteum) with rich autumn foliage. They can be divided into Species (Sciadorhodion, Pentanthera, Rhodora, Sinensi or Brachycalyx); Ghent (the oldest hybrid group with multiple small flowers); Knaphill (large flowered hybrids, some of which are scented); Mollis (earlier flowering, more compact and spreading); Rustica (small double flowers, some scented). Other deciduous azaleas include Pratt hybrids, viscosum, occidentale and the Northern Lights series.
  • Evergreen azaleas: Small, slow-growers, suitable for pots, up to 75cm, some are prostrate in habit, with autumn colour. Flowering season is usually May.


Choose a sheltered site with dappled shade, however, dwarf alpine species will tolerate full sun. Avoid sites exposed to early morning sun in spring, as this may damage frosted flowers.

The most important factor deciding whether rhododendrons or azaleas will grow well in your garden is the pH of your soil. They must have moist but well-drained, acid soil between pH 5.0 and 6.0 that is rich in organic matter. Reducing soil pH is not easy.

October or March/April are the best times for planting – dig in acidic organic matter before you begin (leafmould, rotting pine needles or composted bracken will work well). Don’t just concentrate on the planting hole – mix well around the surrounding soil. Don’t plant deeply, as rhododendrons are surface rooters. Apply a loose 8cm mulch of acidic organic material and water well to finish.


To keep your plants performing at their best, in spring, apply slow-release ericaceous fertiliser and renew the acidic mulch and keep well watered.

Rhododendrons grow best in areas of high rainfall, which is naturally slightly acidic. Using tap water, especially in hard water districts, is not good for the plant as it contains too much calcium which reduces the acidity around the plant’s roots. However, if rain water runs out, tap water is OK to use for a month or so in summer.

Rhododendrons don’t require pruning apart from removing dead wood and deadheading if practical. If the plant outgrows its space, cutting back is tolerated best from deciduous azaleas and rough-barked rhododendrons. After cutting back, mulch, feed and keep well watered.

Growing in Containers

If you have alkaline soil, grow rhododendrons and azaleas as container plants. Use ericaceous loam-based compost and repot every other year into fresh compost in spring. When not fully repotting, top dress the top 5cm of growing medium with fresh compost.

Common Problems

Most problems with rhododendrons and azaleas stem from the soil being too alkaline, drought or other extreme weather conditions. Here are signs to look out for:

  • Non-flowering and bud drop: Flower buds actually start forming in late summer – dry conditions at this time can lead to a total bud formation failure or a partial formation, causing buds to dry up and dropping unopened in spring. Mulch and water thoroughly and regularly during dry periods in summer.
  • Leaf drop: Older leaves droop and roll, then drop off, following extreme moisture conditions – drought or waterlogging. Newer leaves show browning at the leaf tip or edge. However, it is normal for the shrub to shed some older leaves in spring and summer.
  • Leaf droop: Usually a response to severe cold, but they usually recover.
  • Leaf scorch/flower damage: Often caused by windy, cold or wet weather.
  • Yellowing foliage: Caused by nutrient deficiency known as chlorosis, an iron deficiency caused by high alkalinity in the soil.
  • Pests: Vine weevil can be a nuisance for container-grown plants, as can rhododendron leafhopper and scale insects.
  • Diseases: Relatively uncommon are bud blast, azalea gall and honey fungus.

Composting, Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants,, Watering, Wildlife


There is no doubt that roses are one of the most popular flowers to grow in Britain. In fact, so many are planted each year that if you set them out as a single row these plants would circle the equator! With the proper care and maintenance you can expect your rose to last for at least 20 years. However, many roses fail to thrive and a lot of that is due to improper planting and care. There are several elements to consider before attempting to plant a rose in your garden and this step-by-step guide should help you to navigate the pitfalls ensuring your rose is a success!


Planting Position 

Choosing the correct position for planting your rose is crucial. If it is not in a suitable spot it will not thrive. Plenty of sun is needed for your rose to grow, slight shade in the afternoon is good but not continuous shade. Your rose needs shelter from the cold winds. A nearby hedge or fence is good but should not be too close that it shades the bush. Your rose will need good drainage as it will not grow in waterlogged soil.

 Soil Conditions 

When planting your rose it is important that the soil is suitable. Ideally the soil should be medium loam, slightly acid with a PH of 6.0-6.5 and reasonably rich in plant foods and humus. Roses cannot thrive if the soil conditions are poor. Roses should be planted from Late October to March and the ground should not be waterlogged or frozen.

Preparing the Rose 

Cut off any leaves, hips or buds that may still be present. If the stems are shrivelled place all of the bush in water for several hours. Cut off any decayed or thin shoots before planting. Plunge roots into a bucket of water if they seem dry. It is crucial that the roots do not dry out before planting and make sure they remain covered until you are ready to set the bush in the planting hole. Cut back any long or damaged roots to about 30cm.

Planting the Rose 

Mark out planting stations to make sure your rose bush has enough space. There should be a distance of about a metre between each plant. When planting make sure that the bud union is about 2-3cm below the surface.

Caring and Maintenance


Roses benefit from having a layer of mulch on the soil surface around the plants as it reduces weeds, keeps soil moist in summer, improves soil structure, reduces black spots and some mulching material provides plant foods. Some suitable materials used for mulching include moist peat, shredded bark, well rotted manure, good garden compost and leaf mould. Prepare the soil surface for mulching by clearing away debris, dead leaves and weeds. Water the soil surface if it is dry. Spread a 5-7cm layer around the rose. Mulching reduces the need for watering and hoeing but does not replace the need for good feeding.


Roses have a deep-rooting habit meaning that the watering of established plants is not crucial in some seasons. However, some roses need watering after a few days of dry weather. For example, newly planted roses, climbers growing against walls and roses planted in sandy soils. All roses will need plenty of water in a period of drought in spring and summer. When watering, use about 5 litres of water for each bush or standard rose and 15 litres for a climber.


The main purpose of hoeing is to keep down weeds that are not smothered by mulching. Hoeing needs to be done frequently to make sure that the underground parts of the weeds are starved. Do not hoe any deeper than 2-3cm below the surface or the roots could be damaged.


Roses are perhaps the most popular flower for cutting and using as decoration. To make sure you don’t weaken the rose bush, do not take more than one third of the flowering stem with the flower. Cut just above an outward facing bud. Do not cut struggling or newly planted roses.  


Roses make heavy demands on plant food reserves in soil. If one or more vital elements run short your rose will not thrive. Feed your rose every year using a proprietary compound fertiliser containing nitrogen, phosphates and potash. You can use powder or granular fertiliser, liquid fertilisers or foliar feeding.


It is important to regularly remove dead blooms. Remove the whole truss when the flowers have faded. Cut the stem just above the second or third leaf down. This will help the rose conserve energy.


Roses do not produce shoots that increase in size steadily each year. Therefore, if they are not pruned the rose becomes a mass of live and dead wood. The purpose of pruning is to get rid of the dead wood each year and encourage the regular development of strong and healthy stems. For more details click here.


Current Issues, Garden Design, Gardening Year, Gardens, Guest Posts

garden trends 2018

When spring and summer are on the horizon our attention turns to how much we’re looking forward to enjoying the garden on sunny days, and what we can do to make the most of our space. This is going to be a big year for gardeners, so put on your gloves, roll up your sleeves and get ready to get covered in grass stains. From completely restyling a huge back garden to enjoying your balcony or terrace, here are five of the best garden trends for 2018.

1. Growing your own

Growing your own has always been popular, but with a rapidly growing trend towards eating a more plant-based diet it’s destined to become even more so. Depending on the space you have you can be as ambitious as you like – the garden is your oyster. However, if space is of a premium, runner beans, tomatoes, herbs and hanging fruit plants can all be grown in small areas. There’s nothing more rewarding than tucking into the fruits (and veg) of your labour!

2. Dining al fresco

What better way to enjoy the fruits of your labour than outdoors? Al fresco dining is a wonderful way to enjoy the garden, in both the day and the evening; in the sun and even when the temperatures drop. Set aside an outside dining space, complete with furniture, cool lighting and either a fire pit, chimney or patio heater so you can enjoy it at all times.

3. Forest-inspired colours

If you’re really into the latest trends and colour is an important part of your garden theme, then natural is the way to go in 2018. And by natural we mean lush forest-inspired deep greens, woodland golds and browns, shades of berries and rustic reds. These are some of the shades included in Pantone’s Verdure palette for the coming year. You can of course impart your own personality with bright tones found in flowering shrubs and herbs, bold colours on your fence or some funky dining furniture. But keep a base of natural for an on-trend look and add a twist with other colours of your choosing.

4. The wonder of Wabi-sabi

Sticking with the natural theme, and it doesn’t come more natural than this, is the Japanese art of Wabi-sabi. This garden art form has been around for over 500 years and actually requires pretty minimal effort. It’s all about combining the slight nurturing of your garden with embracing the natural imperfections of your outside space: the moss on your brickwork and stones, those rusty gate handles and hinges, that overgrown shrubbery and those distressed pots. If the thought of getting covered in dirt isn’t for you, this trend is perfect.

planting cacti

5. Small-space gardening

It’s not always possible to create elaborate garden themes, particularly when you don’t actually have a garden, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still create a cool outside space. Whether it’s a balcony, tiny courtyard or even a windowsill, you can still get growing. Rather than looking down, look up! Use balconies and wrap them in climbing shrubs, buy vertical structures to grow flowers on and create a palette of outdoor tones in your window box. With a little space and a lot of imagination there’s plenty that can be done. With space being more at a premium than ever, small-space gardening has become a big thing.

Have fun implementing some of this year’s best garden trends into your outside space and enjoy!

Eleanor CainesEleanor is a freelance writer. She loves to write about everything from gardening to travels. Her favourite part of her outside space is the fairy garden she created with her daughter.

Gardening, Gardening Year, Guest Posts, How To

We all would love a green, pristine lawn in the warmer months, but weeds and patchiness always seem to get in the way. The key to a great lawn, however, starts long before the spring. It takes preparation and using the winter months to your advantage can really aid your goal of having a lawn to be proud of. There are a few steps that you can take in the winter to get your lawn ready to grow this spring.

Green lawn


People are generally more prepared to fertilize their flowering plants than their grass, but your lawn can always use extra nutrients as well. This task can be done either in the late fall or the early winter. Fertilizing should be done before the first big freeze or when frost becomes apparent. As most weeds die during the winter months, fertilizing allows your grass the opportunity to absorb nutrients unopposed. And as it starts getting colder, your lawn will have already packed the nutrients into the soil which will continue to feed the roots as the winter progresses.

Rake your lawn

Raking leaves is no one’s idea of a fun time, but it is a very important thing to do to secure your lawn’s health. When you let your leaves lie where they fall on your yard, they can cause several different issues for your grass. Leaves block sunlight to your grass – which is still essential for its health, even in winter – and can hinder the process on water evaporating. If the ground stays too wet for too long, mould can develop and hurt your grass even further.

Either rake your leaves and remove them from your garden or use a mower to break them down into tinier pieces that can be useful to your soil. Leaves can make a great fertilizer so long as they’re broken down and useful to your grass.

Cut your grass shorter

Lawn experts warn against cutting your grass too short during the summer. It can cause stress to your grass, make it susceptible to burns from the heat, and allows weeds a chance to outgrow it.

In the winter, however, cutting your grass shorter than normal can be extremely beneficial. If your grass isn’t cut short enough, the grass can become matted down and potentially smother itself throughout the winter. Longer grass also attracts pests that can set up nests; those in turn will mess up your lawn as well. Cutting your grass shorter also helps to ward off weeds before they begin, especially if you live in a place where a good freeze can happen.

winter lawn

Don’t walk on the lawn too much

Making a snowman or having a snowball fight in the garden with your family can be extremely fun in the winter. However, those soggy conditions can put a lot of stress on your lawn. Excessive foot traffic – especially in soggy conditions – can compress your soil and ruin the integrity of your lawn.

Constantly walking on brown, short grass can make it have a hard time recovering in the spring. Grass is normally pretty resilient, but not when heavy foot traffic is involved as it slows its recovery. Have fun and go play out in the snow; just be wary of the traffic your lawn is getting and try to move to different areas every now and then.

Aerate your Lawn

Aerating is generally a practice that most experts recommend for the spring or fall. However, aerating helps the grassroots by allowing air, nutrients, and water to penetrate the soil more easily. In the winter, your soil struggles the most with this cycle. If your lawn looks matted and is retaining water, aerating might be a great option to prevent some issues.

The fall and winter make or break a great lawn in the spring. By preparing early and keeping an eye on your lawn during the winter, you can get a head start in turning heads with your lawn.

Valerie CoxValerie Cox is a contributing writer for BeautyLawn Spray. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, swimming, and playing with her puppy.