The Q&A Archives: pruning rhododendron

Question: Hi,
I have a very healthy grove of fifteen year old rhodies. I am using vinca minor as a ground cover. This requires constant keeping after as the vinca will run over everything. In cleaning out the rhodie bed I noticed several of the lowest rhodie branches have been pulled down by the Vinca and sprouted roots and sent up volunteer shoots. Should I let these volunteers grow and get new rhodies or cut them away so as not to steal any energy away from the growth of the mother plant?
Thank You,

Answer: What you're describing is propagation by air layering. Many gardeners use this process to increase their stock of a favorite plant. Lucky you! You didn't even have to do anything to get new plants! Each branch has probably developed roots where they made contact with the ground. This means that you will have new rhododendrons if you separate the rooted plants from the parent plant. I would cut the branch where it enters the soil and remove the rooted shoot. You can pot these up (us potting soil and nursery pots) and place them in the general area of the parent rhodies. This will assure they get the same cultural conditions as they did when they were first sprouting and will lower the shock of being transplanted. Be sure to keep the pots watered throughout the growing season. This fall, when the weather is cooler you can plant these new rhodies in your garden. Best wishes with your new plants!

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