The Q&A Archives: No blooms on rhododendrons

Question: We have lived in our house for 5 years. Our first summer here we had beautiful blooms on a rhododendron. In the last 4 years, there has not been a single bloom. I've used wilt-proof on the leaves, so they look great. I recently found out that I should have been dead-heading the blooms (I'm the ultimate gardenning dummy). Is there any way to get the blooms back?

Answer: Some rhodies bloom best in the shade and others prefer a sunny location. Find out what your rhodie is, and make sure it's getting the proper exposure. Rhodies also like an acid soil. If yours is alkaline, you may want to adjust it (with applications of sulphur), to increase the acidity. Have your soil tested, or test it yourself to see what the pH is. Rhodies prefer soil pH of 4.5 to 5.8. If both the exposure and soil acidity are correct and your plant still isn't blooming, try pruning to encourage new growth. Cut some of the stems back to a whorl of leaves. Latent buds on the stem below the leaves will sprout and grow new stems. These stems will then develop whorls of leaves, and a flower bud at the end. It will take two years from pruning for the stems to grow and the flowers to open - but it's worth the wait! When the flowers have faded, carefully snap the trusses off to make room for the new leaf and flower buds to develop at the top of the stem.

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