The Q&A Archives: Winter Injury on Rhododendrons

Question: My rhododendrons have not weathered the winter well. There are brown withered leaves on as much as 3/4 of each plant. What do I do? Can I cut these branches back to twigs so that they grow new branches? Do I just remove all the brown leaves? When should I respond?

Answer: It doesn't sound good for your rhododendrons, but all is not lost. First of all, cut back a few branches of the shrubs beyond the brown leaves and look for green tissue in the stem. If you see green, the branch is still alive and will send out new growth. Also, check a few of the buds. If they fall off easily and are brown, then they're obviously dead. If green, there's still hope. I'd give the shrubs another week of so and if no new growth sprouts from the branches, prune them back severely until you reach green bark. Give them water and some fetilizer (follow label instructions).They should respond with new growth. If all this fails, replace yours with locally-grown stock and next winter protect the shrubs by wrapping them in burlap.

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