The Q&A Archives: Old, Dying Rhodie

Question: There is an old 6' Rhododendron on the edge of our property that's on its last leg. Its branches are almost completely bare except for three small patches of leaves. I'd love to try to rejuvenate it. Is there anything I can do to bring it back to life?

Answer: If the rhodie is dying, it may not be getting the proper exposure to sun (or shade), or the soil may be dry and compacted. On the other hand, if it's putting out new growth each year and just looks neglected, you can rejuvenate it in the following manner:
Prune out any obviously dead branches, then prune the live branches back by about one-third. This will force new branches from dormant buds along the lower sections of the branches. Rhodies produce flower buds during the summer prior to bloom. If you prune now, you'll sacrifice this spring's showy display. After pruning, expect the shrub to take 2 years before flowering again. (One year for new shoots to develop, and one year for flower bud production.)

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