Monday, July 22, 2013

How or When to Trim Rhododendrons - Snap!

How to trim a rhododedron.  Cutting back a rhododendron's kind of tricky--but simple.

During a tour of the yard, my friend Ellen suddenly reached out and snapped off a dried blossom.

 "You know you're supposed to twist these off?"  I nodded solemnly, but truth was, I'd had no idea.

Now I snap off the blossoms just when they begin to resemble dried tarantulas. The benefit is twofold.  New bud growth is stronger and faded petals don't
adhere to green leaves, discoloring them. 

Just when the garden nears perfection, it's time to move and start over.  Our new yard has great bones, but was sadly in need of maintenance.

The rhododendron hedge was overgrown, untended, yet robust.  Sheltered by a construction dumpster this past winter, the shrubs bloomed profusely. They benefit from windbreaks natural or manmade.

Bill and I spent the afternoon filling that same dumpster with trimmings.



Rhodos have a tendency to sprout gangly branches. The goal should be a soft, semi-rounded shape. Thus remove any cowlick branches at a Y-shaped junction well into the plant.  Rhododendrons should never be trimmed with hedge trimmers or hand shears.  No brushcuts.  Use hand lopers to thin thicker branches.

To create fullness, open the lower and interior plant to sunlight.  Crop branches that criss-cross or lie on another. 




Then, remove spent blooms.  New growth will already be pushing through, resembling tiny horns, pale green in color. Be delicate, although there's always a few casualties.  Pointed flower snips provide precision removal with the least amount of damage.

 Remove any yellowed or spotted leaves.


When pruning is complete, give the plant a dose of coffee grounds (free with Starbucks Grounds for the Garden) or acidic plant food.  A phone call ahead to the coffee shop will ensure enough grounds for the project. 

Mulch around the base.


It's gonna be spectacular next year!

I only hope the dumpster's gone by next Spring?

Related blogs:

No More Bad Haircuts-- How to Trim Shrubs


Green Fences -- Boxwood Hedges to Hydrangea Hedgerows