The great news about Rhododendrons, Camellias and Azaleas is that they are so adaptable that they grow really well in pots and containers. Sometimes we grow them there because we have the wrong soil, sometimes just because we want colour in pots.
So how do you go about it?
First, look at the size of your plant and choose a pot where the measurement across the top is about 10-20cm smaller than the width of the plant branches (called the canopy). This stops the compost getting too wet in rainy weather.
The pot must also have a drainage hole or holes in the bottom, this stops water from sitting in the bottom of the pot and damaging the roots, generally the better the quality of the pot, the larger the holes.
Water your chosen plant well before planting. A good way to do this is to fill a deep bucket with water and let the plant sink down under the water. this makes sure there are no dry areas within the compost. If you are in a hurry then hold it under the water until the bubbles stop coming up. Then put the plant to one side to drain off any excess water.
Layer the bottom of the pot with small pine bark chips to encourage the roots right to the bottom of the pot.
The quality of your compost is crucial You must use a top quality John Innes Ericaceous Compost. The first step is to pour a base layer into the bottom of the pot. Remove the plastic pot from your plant then place it in the new pot, adjusting the compost level underneath so the top of the root ball is 5cm below the lip of the pot. Don't disturb the rootball, all our plants are grown perfectly and will not be pot bound even though the roots will look closely knit and that is just how they should be. Now top up the pot with more John Innes Ericaceous Compost until the compost is 2cm below the top of the root ball which will then appears slightly raised.
The next step is to put a layer of 4-5cm of pine bark chips on top to finish off the pot. As well as looking really smart they keep the roots cool, aerate the soil, keep moisture in and stop weeds from growing. it is important to pull these 2 or 3cm away from the point where the plant's stem joins the compost to stop it getting too moist.
The final step is to water the pot to settle the compost firmly round the rootball of the plant. Keep watering during dry periods and top up the bark whenever the level starts to drop down. this will get you excellent results that will last for years. Pot feet that lift the pot a little from the ground are an excellent investment as they aid drainage through the pot, which is especially important in winter.