It’s almost spring, fellow West Coast Gardeners! It’s time for grizzly bears, lawn mowers and our favourite garden shrubs to wake up from a long winter slumber. Just as grizzlies will be looking for a big meal after such a long sleep, your blooming perennials are going to need some food and TLC as they start a new year of blooming and growth.
Your azaleas and rhododendrons will fill your garden with bright blooms and lush green foliage during the year, but only if you give them enough nutrients to really perform.
Get Mulching those Blooming Shrubs
The first thing to do in spring is to mulch around the base of your blooming perennials. Why? Mulch will help the soil to hold onto its moisture and give your shrubs the boost they need when they burst into bloom.
I recommend using Sea Soil, as it’s an organic mulch with lots of nutrients. (You can read more about how much I love Sea Soil in our blog post here.)
Tuck in 2-5″ of mulch around the shrub’s roots, laying it on top rather than digging it into the soil and risk damaging the delicate root system. Usually this means extending the mulch to the edges of the bush’s growth, as that is where the roots generally end.
It’s Feeding Time in the Garden!
Can you hear your flowering shrubs growling with hunger as they get ready to bloom for spring? The best time to feed them is when you see the buds on your shrubs begin to poke out of their hard shell, when just the tips are observable. Make sure to use plant food specific to your blooming perennials, such as rhododendron and azalea fertilizer. Your plant food container will include instructions on the back, and it’s important to follow those, as too much fertilizer can burn your plant and damage its roots.
A good fertilizer mix for rhodos and azaleas is 6-12-12, and look for one that includes micronutrients for an added boost to keep your plants healthy.
I also suggest finding a fertilizer with stabilized nitrogen included, as this allows the nitrogen to remain in the soil longer rather than being leeched out of the ground by rain and watering. Stabilized nitrogen gives your shrubs a slow release of nutrients to keep it blooming longer. (Great for azaleas, rhodos, camellias, holly bushes and hydrangeas!)
Keep those Blooming Perennials Looking Beautiful
Spring is not the time to be pruning or reducing the height of your favourite flowering shrubs. Cutting off branches will end up also destroying buds and you will end up without any blooms during the spring and summer. However, if there are dead branches or unhealthy areas of your shrub, those can be easily snapped or cut off to help your bush remain strong during the growing season.
Deadheading any blooming plant is important, as removing spent blossoms will give your shrub more nutrients to grow new flowers! Be careful though, as on many blooming shrubs like azaleas and rhododendrons, next years buds are already forming underneath this year’s blooms. If you are too aggressive when deadheading, you could end up hurting your flowering season for the following year.
Ready for a New Addition?
Thinking about adding a new rhododendron or azalea to your garden? Here are a few tips!
- Buy a more mature plant, such as one that’s grown into in a 3 gallon pot, rather than smaller size, to ensure the roots are established. You don’t want your new shrub to struggle during the heat of the summer or chill of the winter.
- When you buy your new shrub, make sure to inspect it first! Look for any dark or black areas on leaves or stems, as that could be a fungus. As well, white areas or spots on leaves can indicate an infection of powdery mildew, which you want to steer clear of! Many new varieties are grown as resistant to these common shrub problems.
- You can transplant a new shrub into your garden anytime the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged.
- Plant your rhodo or azalea in a site that gets afternoon shade, as most varieties don’t like direct sun. (Check your plant’s label for details!
Ready for a spring garden full of blooms, bees and beauty? You’re already on your way, now that your blooming shrubs are taken care of! Perennials are important to take care of because they can continue to grow and bloom year after year.
If you’re looking for some inspiration on adding new perennials to your garden, take a look at our favourite sun loving perennials or our top perennial ideas for shady spots with these blog posts. Happy gardening this spring!