The Q&A Archives: My Rhododendron Needs Help

Question: Please help! As you know 2 years ago we had a drought. During that time my 10-foot Rhododendron lost many of its leaves and its branches are bare. I left it alone (minus quite a few waterings last year). There is little new growth. Here are my questions:
1. Is there something I should be doing to promote new growth (fertilize? extra water? Extra mulch?)
2. Should I prune those branches with no leaves on them? If I do, will they grow back?

This was a beautiful plant and now I cannot figure out how to get it back. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Answer: Droughty conditions can take a toll on plants! The most common symptoms of drought stress are tip die back and leaf loss. If your rhodie was healthy going into the drought, it is likely to recover. Prune back the bare branches until you find live wood, indicated by green tissue. New shoots will appear below your cuts, along with healthy new leaves. Pruning back now (in early spring) will sacrifice any blooms your stressed plant may have developed, but the long term gains will be worth a year of no bloom. Water regularly and deeply but withhold fertilizer until new growth begins. Hope your rhodie regains its health soon!

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