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When Your Feet Hurt, You Hurt All Over

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When Your Feet Hurt, You Hurt All Over

There’s a saying that if your feet hurt, you hurt all over. Regardless if your feet are soggy wet or have sustained an injury you are going to “feel the pain” or at least be uncomfortable. If it is bad enough, you can’t stand up anymore. The same can be said for plants, including azaleas and rhododendron.

The foot or “feet” of a plant is its root system. Not only does the root system support the plant, it is also the means by which the plant obtains its water and nutrients from the soil to sustain itself.

Injury to a plant’s “feet” can occur in several ways. Mechanical injury to a plant’s root system can occur by cutting or crushing them.  Environmental conditions can also harm the roots.   Here’s a few examples: too much water, too little water, poorly drained soils, too hot or too cold of a soil temperature and even heavy soils for certain plants. The “feet” of a plant can also be affected by disease which ultimately can kill the entire plant. 

In the first picture above, taken around the middle of April of this year, this PJM (Rhododendron ‘P.J.M. Elite’), along with one on its left (not shown) was blooming in all its glory and appeared to be completely healthy. The second picture, taken just three months later, shows the dying plant on the right while the one on the left is still thriving.

So what happened? Growing azalea and rhododendron can be a little tricky. These two PJM were doing well for a number of years until the abundant rains of this year, a total of over twenty five inches in that two and one half month period of time for these two plants. In additional, you may be able to see from the second picture that the dying plant (now dead) was at the low end of the planting bed and most likely received a lot more water than the one on the left. What you can’t see is that the soil in this location has a heavy clay content, therefore holding water for a longer period of time.

The combination of a number of factors that are detrimental to azaleas and rhododendron became the perfect storm and contributed to the death of this plant from the disease Phytophthora Root Rot. When the plant was removed from the soil, the classic symptom of the red-brown discoloration of the inside of a twig was clearly visible in this plant.

As you consider the planting location of an azalea or rhododendron, remember to analyze all aspects of placing the plant in a suitable exposure including what type of situation the plant’s “feet” will be in. Remember, if your feet hurt, you can hurt all over!

Kemper Center for Home Gardening

Posted in: Fall | Tags: azal , rhododendron , root rot , disease | Comments (0) | View Count: (875)
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