Taming Overgrown Rhododendrons - Knowledgebase Question

Melrose, MA
Question by jaapdm
April 5, 1998
I've recently moved into an older home. The rhododendrons growing in front of the house are overgrown, standing about 12 feet tall. They need to be cut back dramatically; ideally they need only be 6 feet tall. The rhododendrons have a southern exposure and are healthy and full but the bottom third is woody without leaves. How should I go about pruning and cutting them back to accomplish this? Or, would I be better off to just have them removed and begin again? When should I do the pruning?


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Answer from NGA
April 5, 1998

0

You can certainly renovate overgrown shrubs, but it's a comittment that will take some time. If you remove more than one-third of the live material on a plant, you'll stress it out, making it more vulnerable to insects and diseases. Plan on taking a couple of years to prune ech shrub into shape, and prune in late spring, after the plants have finished flowering. Just cut back the branches to a node, where you can expect two stems will grow where you've removed one. This will help the rhodie fill-in and look bushy, rather than straggly. If you plan each cut, your shrubs will maintain their vigor, and at the end of two seasons, they'll be a more manageable size. Here's a book that outlines the best approach to renovating overgrown shrubs: Pruning, by Christopher Brickell, published by Simon & Schuster, ISBN: 0-671-65841-7. The book is loaded with illustrations to help you make the right pruning cuts.

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