Hello fellow readers,
They’re long and leggy which is evident from the photo of the garden dilemma shared by Melanie of Newton. She and her husband acquired a lake-side fixer-upper built over a half-century ago. The rhododendrons have grown taller than the house and branches are resting on the roof.
Indeed it’s time to rejuvenate prune; but Melanie should wait until her rhododendron are dormant in winter, I prefer early March. But now is a good time to cut back any branches that are overhanging or touching the roof; before ice and snow are added to the mix and to inhibit critters easy access to hunker down.
The technique of rejuvenation pruning removes most of the branches and restores shrubs that have become leggy or overgrown. The good news is most rhododendron species and hybrids can be severely pruned and grow back as good as new.
One way to rejuvenate prune is to cut back each primary branch of the plant’s framework. Rhododendrons usually have three or more main branches rising from the crown of the plant that form the framework. Cut each branch at a different height to help the shrub look natural when the new shoots mature.
Another way to rejuvenate your long and leggy is to cut the entire plant to six inches above the ground. Not all rhododendrons can survive this dramatic haircut though. If the plant is weakened by disease or poor nutrition, for example, it may not recover from the stresses of hard pruning. One way to check is cut only one of the main branches back to six inches. Then cut the other main branches to a height you are sure is healthy, say two feet. If new growth emerges from the six-inch cut, you can cut back the rest of the shrub the following year and be confident it will grow back.
Rejuvenation pruning works particularly well on rhododendrons because of a special trait. They have little pink pinhead dots called latent buds that pepper the surface of older branches. These latent buds will sprout the new framework of branches. Prune above a cluster of latent buds rather than above just one bud to encourage multiple branches. Not to worry if you make a mistake as Rhododendrons are very forgiving. Rejuvenation rocks!
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