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Pruning Rhododendrons

Removing dead flowers

Removing withered flowerheads is particularly recommended for young plants that have attained a height of 1 m (40 in). This prevents essential nutrients, which the shrub needs for growth, being wasted on the unnecessary formation of seeds. Deadheading also allows the young shoots, which form at the base of the flower stalks, more room to develop. The best time to deadhead flowers is immediately after flowering. Do this gently so that any young shoots that have begun to develop are not damaged or broken off along with the faded flowers.

Removing new shoots

Removing new shoots, or pinching out as it is usually called, will encourage open, sparsely growing rhododendron shrubs to develop denser, more compact growth, Simply pinch out any new shoots as they appear. This will activate the leaf along the sides of the branch and three or more young shoots per branch will develop instead.

Generally speaking, rhododendrons shouId not be pruned. There are, however, some exceptions. Pruning will be necessary if:

  1. the plants have become too big for the position in which they are growing and they cannot be transplanted because of lack of space;
  2. they are too old, lanky or are beginning to become bare from the bottom up;
  3. Individual branches have broken off due to the weight of snow, strong winds or for other reasons. the most favourable time for cutting back is from early to mid-spring.

How to prune

Use sharp secateurs (pruners) to cut off individual branches just above a leaf axil. In just a few weeks' time new leaves will develop from the buds on the remaining branches. Some varieties respond particularly well to pruning. These include "Catawbiense Boursault", "Catawbiense Grandiflorum", "Cunningham's White", "English Roseum" and "Roseum Elegans". For this reason, gardeners often like to use these varieties as hedges.