Pruning Rhododendrons - Knowledgebase Question

Wellesley, MA
Avatar for chrisbau
Question by chrisbau
February 3, 1998
I have several neglected rhodies around my new house and have read conflicting reports on how to "renew" them. Could I prune them hard and expect them to grow back in 3 or 4 seasons? Or should I prune lightly and just try to reshape?

Answer from NGA
February 3, 1998
There are two schools of thought on rhodie renewal. I prefer to do it systematically and take a couple of years to accomplish the job. If you prune rhodies back really hard, you'll have no idea where the new branch buds will sprout. You'll also lose all of your blooms for a few years. Instead, try selective pruning, taking no more than one-third of the healthy plant material off in any one year. That way you'll still get blooms and the plant won't suffer from the lack of energy-producing leaves. First remove any dead branches, then cut back some of the branches to the trunk, and some of the branches only part way. Be sure to prune to a bud that's facing in the direction you want the new growth to take. Plan on a 2 or 3 year renewal project to get your shrubs back into shape.

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