Rhododendrons: Leggy rhododendrons

Discussion in 'Ericaceae (rhododendrons, arbutus, etc.)' started by Alf, Jan 15, 2008.

  1. Alf

    Alf Member

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    Hi there. I've been gardending for several years and have never been afraid of mercilessly pruning plants since I always get great results... but for some reason I'm scared to death to prune my rhodies hard (maybe 'cause they cost so much!). The most I do is dead-head, but they are still getting leggy. From reading other posts and talking to people they say that I should just cut them back a few inches. The problem is that on many of my rhodies, all of the leaves are on the ends of the stems. In other words, if I cut back each stem just 'a few inches', I would be left with a shrub with absolutely no leaves! What can I do and when is a good time to do it? Thx. Alf (Chilliwack)
     
  2. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I'm not the Rhodo expert here but have cut mine back, with acceptable results. I would suggest cutting just a couple of stems each year, not heading them all back at once. This will stimulate growth from just below the cut, and may even stimulate growth from the base...?

    I have usually cut just after blooming, but the key is to give the resultant new growth time to harden off before winter. If you have a late blooming variety and an early winter you might have trouble, so it might be worth losing the bloom off a branch or two and cut earlier. The new growth probably won't flower for a year or two.

    Also, there are apparently some varieties or species that do not sprout from old wood, but I don't think they're common ones. Spin around some old threads on the forum here, and you should find some old conversations that will clarify.
     
  3. Alf

    Alf Member

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    Thanks, I'll give that a try. Early last fall I cut one really ugly rhodo right back (it looks like a few bare twigs), but I don't see any evidence of any budding yet. Maybe it'll still come, but maybe I did too much at once. I'll try to keep it to a couple of stems a season.
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Actually these vary in ability to respond to hard pruning, some do not come back well at all. And it sounds like what you have is foliage mildew, specimens so infested may not recover well from hard pruning even if a variety that normally would bonce back otherwise. Look for characteristic patches and spots on leaves to check for mildew. Often there are reddish-and-yellow blotches on the upper side with corresponding moldy or dusty looking areas beneath. Infested leaves drop prematurely, so that plants may end up with only a few leaves at the tips of the branches - or die completely when especially susceptible (it varies with the variety, some can't take it at all, some live on mostly normally despite being infested and other kinds fall in between).
     
  5. chimera

    chimera Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    There are some varieties that only keep one year's leaf growth.
     
  6. greenknight

    greenknight Member

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    Often, if you follow a branch back, you'll find some small side branch that you can prune to.

    If that's not the case, try doing some thinning. This may stimulate some new basal growth.
     

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