Pruning PJM Rhododendron

gardenspuds(CA- SF Bay area)March 16, 2010

I planted two PJM Rhododendrons in summer 2008. The plants were in 2 1/2 gallon pots, and because it was at the end of the season in the nursery, I got the last two plants. Looked healthy with lots of leaves, but a bit leggy (not enough to make me not bring them home).

This is the second spring with lots of blooms, but this year, the plants look more leggy and seem to not have as many leaves as last year, leaves are mostly towards the tops of the branches. The plants did develop the beautiful mahogany leaves both winters they've been in the ground.

The two plants are planted near a hill which get complete shade in the winter, and about 6 hours of sun in the summer. We live in the woods, so except for a few hot days in the summer around 90, most days are in the high 70's, low 80's in the summer.

I read varying things about pruning, mostly don't prune rhododendron. Would it be proper in this case to prune the Rhododendrons to make them more bushy since they haven't been in the ground a long time? Each plant is about 2 1/2 feet x 2 1/2 feet and have shown good growth since being planted. They each have 5 or 6 major branches at the base of the plant that are maybe 3/4"-1" thick, then branch into many more thinner branches, getting quite twiggy at the top where the flower buds are.

Thanks.

Barbara

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bboy(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Probably your problem is powdery mildew, same as up here. I see plenty of this cultivar that have been made thin by this problem - along with numerous other kinds.

Cutting them back will just add insult to injury. In fact, I have found that lopping badly mildewing rhododendrons may even hasten their demise. The new, adventitious shoots that sprout on the stems below the cuts mildew more severely than the older growth that was cut off.

And die.

The worst results have been with 'Unique'.

Here is a link that might be useful: Information on Rhododendron -- Powdery Mildew, An Online Guide to Plant Disease Control, Oregon State University

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 1:04PM
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