Rhododendron Container Care: Growing Rhododendrons In Containers

Caring for Rhododendrons Growing in Containers
potted rhododendrons
(Image credit: SvetlanaKlaise)

Rhododendrons are stunning bushes that produce big, beautiful blossoms in the spring (and in the case of some varieties again in the fall). While usually grown as shrubs, they can get very big and take up the space of a small tree. They can also go the other direction and be grown as small, manageable plants in containers. Keep reading to learn more about how to care for rhododendrons in pots.

Rhododendron Container Care

Growing rhododendrons in containers is relatively easy because they have such shallow root systems. In fact, the major concern with rhododendron container care is not the size of the container, but its drainage capabilities. Rhododendrons like moist soil, but their roots will rot easily if they get too soggy, so make sure your container has plenty of drainage holes. If you’ve just bought a small rhododendron, you can either transplant it or keep it in its nursery container for the first year. It will need more space as it grows over the years, but it’s perfectly fine starting out small. If you are transplanting it, soak the root ball in water first to help the roots detangle. Plant it in a slightly acidic, well-draining soil mixed with peat moss and grit. Shallow containers, about 8 inches (20 cm.), are best, since the roots won’t grow down very far, and the plant will get tall and prone to tipping. Another important factor when growing rhododendrons in containers is sunlight. Rhododendrons cannot tolerate bright sunlight. Place your container in dappled shade under a big tree or next to a north facing wall. It’s best to overwinter your rhododendrons in an unheated garage or basement where they will stay above freezing.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.