Rhododendron–winter care


Last September (2021) I planted a “Nova Zembla” Rhododendron in my Toronto front yard (zone 6/clay type soil) facing south with my house on the north side of the Rhodo. Rhodos were hard to find in Toronto last year (due to COVID etc) but I finally found one last September and although the garden centre no longer offered a refund on the plant that late in the season, (should the plant not thrive), the plant looked healthy. Before winter I wrapped burlap around it several times along with a white “insect and frost” barrier fabric as advised by my local garden centre. While protected on the north side by the house, the plant would be exposed to wind/elements from the west. However, this Spring when I unwrapped the plant, it was quite dead with the leaves curled and brittle. Could I have wrapped it too much? Should I put pyramid shaped wooden structure around it to better protect it from the west wind? One garden advisor asked whether I had watered it well right up to the end of November which I may not have done adequately. This Spring I planted another Rhodo– “Purple Passion” in the same location and followed the garden centre’s planting directions carefully re: providing acidic soil (worm castings, pine mulch, cocoa mulch and soil acidifier). I water it well and the plant is blooming and doing well. It gets morning shade, afternoon dappled light and western sunlight from about 3 pm to 6 pm. I hope that this plant will survive the winter better than the last Rhodo. Any suggestions for winter care or other care? Thanks so much, Linda


Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.  Rhododendrons can be challenging to grow in our local landscapes, but their stunning blooms are worth the effort. We’re so glad your new plant is doing well.  The best time to plant rhododendrons is in the spring, which allows the roots time to become established before winter arrives.   Other rhododendron care advice – including watering, mulch, and burlap in preparation for winter – can be found in a previous response to the question: Does my rhododendron look fine?

Other resources that might be helpful:

Putting the Garden to Bed:  A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide

American Rhododendron Society – Weather protection

Rhododendron care

We hope you’ll be able to enjoy your rhododendron for many years to come.