Rhododendron pruning 101: rejuvenation

By October 21, 2016 2 Comments

Three pruning actions on rhododendrons

There are three pruning actions associated with rhododendrons. One is the removal of spent flowers (trusses) and any diseased or dead wood. Most rhodos produce seeds and you can get your rhodo to concentrate on growth by removing the spent flowers. Do this soon after flowering before the new buds get big and set. I prefer hand pinching. Just be careful so you don’t injure the buds below. Use hand snips if you are worried.



Trusses still on



Trusses pinched off


The second pruning action is for shape. Just follow the branch down to the last whorl of leaves you want to keep and cut just above those leaves. This is what I recommend to clients who wish to keep their rhododendrons from getting too big.

But what if your rhodo is too big? Now what? In this case we employ pruning action three: rejuvenation, which sounds better than renovation. This involves bravely making large cuts and significantly reducing the plant size. This works because rhodos are special. Examine their bark and look for tiny pink dots. Those are latent buds. Always aim to cut above these buds. Best case: cut above a cluster of latent buds. Then watch.

One example

Here is one example from my work site. This rejuvenation pruning was done at a corner unit where there was a problem with vehicle sight lines. Drivers couldn’t see properly when turning. So out came the saw as soon as the request was made. This was the result.



Not much to look at right after pruning. Reduced to 30%.


A few weeks later…..



Latent buds popping



Latent buds in action, a cluster of four buds below the cut



Much better after a few weeks







September 2016



September 2016



Rhododendrons are forgiving plants. Pinch off flower clusters (trusses) soon after flowering and prune for size. Bravely make big cuts if rejuvenation is required.


References: Fine Gardening, issue 86.

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