The Q&A Archives: Rhodedendron Has Yellow Leaves

Question: For the last two years my rhodadendron has hardly bloomed and the leaves have lost their deep green collor and are gradually turning yellow. They are facing north with indirect or filtered sunlight. My guess is that they are as least 30 years old -- probably more -- planted by the original owners of the house. They have not done well for the two years that I've lived here.

What could be the problem? Who should I get to examine them. Are there plant doctors?

Answer: Yellowing leaves indicates a nutrition problem with your rhodie. Rhododendrons prefer soil that's on the acidic side. You can use an acidified fertilizer made especially for rhodies, with a low ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus and potash. (Nitrogen promotes green growth, sometimes at the expense of blooms.) Use a formula such as 8-12-4 to promote blossoms on your rhododenron.

Rhododendrons tend to become bare in the center as they mature unless they're faithfully pruned every 2-3 years. Rhodies bloom on the ends of two-year old shoots. It takes a full year for blossom buds to develop after a shoot has grown from a main branch or limb. Keep this in mind as you're pruning. If a branch is bare from the trunk to the tip, you can cut it back and it will develop leaves and shoots from leaf scars below the cut. It's best to prune your rhodie right after it has finished blooming. Decide where on that branch you'd like new shoots to develop and cut just above a leaf scar. New stems should develop that summer and flower buds should develop the following year. You can expect one or two new shoots to sprout on each branch you cut back.

There actually ARE plant doctors in the form of university trained Master Gardeners. If you take a sample of the problem to your local Cooperative Extension office the helpful folks there can determine the cause of the problem and recommend solutions. Contact the extension at (412) 473-2540.
Hope this information helps.

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