The Heather Specialists

Growing Heather in Canada

4.  Mulch.
Mulches serve several purposes. Firstly, they prevent moisture loss from the soil. Secondly, they help keep the soil cool, and thirdly, they help keep the soil frozen all winter and thus help to prevent heaving.  Alternatively, they can keep the soil from freezing in areas where there are early snowfalls before the deep frosts come.  If the plants can draw water up to the leaves all winter, many problems relating to dehydration can be prevented.  A pine needle mulch is best, although evergreen boughs can be used.  White pine needles tend to be very soft and pack down, whereas Scotch pine or red pine needles are more difficult to compact and give far better results.  I seem to recall that a hemlock or spruce mulch was to be avoided, but I can't remember why. I don't like using any kind of dead deciduous leaf mulch, including oak leaves, as the leaves mat up and exclude water and oxygen from the soil.

5. Fertilization.
Obviously, a healthy plant in the peak of condition will be able to withstand weather-related stresses. Fertilizers can help achieve this, although it can be overdone.  Other than the odd application of Epsom salts to supply magnesium, and 0-15-14 fertilizer, I don't realize and yet the plants bloom very well every year.   It may well be that my soil contains many essential nutrients whereas others may not.  The key is probably to stay away from nitrogen, especially after the end of July.  The late growth, encouraged by the use of nitrogen, will be killed back in winter, and the plant will become stressed.  I am not particularly fastidious about the way I supply fertilizer.   I simply hope that the rain washes it in.   No doubt a complete fertilizer designed for rhododendrons, applied before flowering, would also be beneficial. No two people will have similar growing conditions and all of us have to experiment to find the best solutions for optimum growth at all seasons.  Any plant which is stressed and unhappy going into winter will not survive, so it is essential to maintain the health of the collection at all times of the year.

To contact us:

Phone: 360-427-5318, 800-294-3284
Fax: 360-432-9780, 800-294-3284

Heaths& Heathers
502 E Haskell Hill Road
Shelton, WA  98584-8429  USA