Answer: Rhododendrons are subject to any number of insect and disease based foliage problems, and unfortunately, based on your description I am unable to tell which one(s) may be affecting your plant. You might want to consult with your county extension (743-6329) as to a specific diagnosis and suggested remedies. You should do so promptly in case it is something that is treated primarily on a seasonal basis, such as lacebug. In the meantime, try to keep the plant as healthy as possible. Keep in mind that they need an acid soil that is humusy and evenly moist yet not soggy. They need a cool soil, so several inches of organic mulch such as shredded bark should be maintained year round. They are shallow rooted and sensitive to root disturbance, so do not dig near or around their roots. They should be watered, including in the fall, if needed to keep the soil evenly moist until the ground freezes. During the winter, it is important to protect them from wind which can dry them out, and when they are young especially, to shelter them from heat and sun reflecting off of a building and/or snow on sunny winter days. You may find it helpful to apply an antidessicant spray in the late fall and winter according to the label instructions. Keep in mind too that a newly planted plant will be possibly less winter hardy than an established one. Finally, trim away and remove and destroy any dead leaves or twigs or branches to try to limit the possible spread of infection. Clean your pruners in a solution of one part ordinary household bleach to nine parts water between cuts. Trimming out dead material will not make the problem any worse, and the plant will regrow and fill in fairly quickly once it becomes established.
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