Rhodendron Has Buds But No Blooms - Knowledgebase Question

Lake Arrowhead, CA
Avatar for Tsktsktsktsk
Question by Tsktsktsktsk
November 20, 1999
We live in the Southern California mountains where Rhododendrons grow beautifully. We have three which bloomed well last year. For the last few months they have been covered with healthy looking buds but the buds have not become flowers. We planted them about two years ago in special planting mix and fertilize with Rhododendron fertilizer. Any suggestions as to what might be wrong?

Answer from NGA
November 20, 1999
I'm not sure there's a problem with your shrubs. The normal bloom time is spring, but rhodies develop buds the summer prior to the normal bloom time. You should see nice fat buds now, but you shouldn't expect them to open until next spring. If you suspect a problem, even with the above explanation, here's some general information on rhodies:

Rhododendrons develop new flower and leaf buds directly below the current season's flower. If you wait until late in the season to snap off the spent flower trusses, you run the risk of damaging or snapping off next year's buds. This sometimes accounts for poor flowering. Because the buds develop in the summer for the following spring's burst of bloom, they are susceptible to winter damage. Late frost can severely injure the buds, turning them a tannish brown. If the above isn't complicated enough, rhododendrons are subject to a fungal disease called Bud and Twig Blight. Diseased flowers do not open and eventually turn tan, then specked with black fruiting spores. If infected buds are not removed from the shrub prior to development of the fungal fruiting spores, they can be spread to healthy plant tissues by insects and by splashing water. To be on the safe side, prune your rhododendron now, removing the affected buds, and sterilizing your pruners between cuts by dipping them in rubbing alcohol. This should control the problem and encourage your shrub to produce new flowering shoots.

Hope this helps you narrow down the problem!

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