Rhododendron leaves? (Pic)

gardenbug(8b)March 24, 2010

I have 4 Rhododendrons (Jean Marie Montague) These were planted 2 years ago. Most of the leaves are nice and green but the ones on the underside and and more towards the center look like this (pic)

Can someone please tell identify the problem and what I can do to have a healthier looking plant? Some of the edges have what looks like silver paint. One rhody in particular has gotten somewhat tall and leggy. How can I get it to get more lower branches so it will become bushier? I hope this isn't to much of an order to ask for. Thanks everyone for all your help. Oh! I almost forgot. They are situated on the Northwest side of my house.

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Cadence, I think sun damage/drought. Since it appears on edges and not leaf centers, it likely occurred in summer when transpiration proceeded faster than the roots could resupply leaves with water. First line of defense is adequate moisture for their location/amount of sun.

If one of your 4 is getting more leggy than the others, is it in more shade?

It's possible to encourage a more dense form on rhododendrons by pinching out new growth buds just as the plant is finishing flowering. To encourage branches to form, pinch terminal buds, NOT the round, fat, blunt-tipped flower buds. This may force shoots to develop from dormant eyes in the lower leaf axils. A plant hormone is produced by leaf buds which inhibits development of dormant buds along the stem...flower buds to not produce this hormone so no reason to alter the flowering. Pinch off the growth buds as they begin to elongate in Spring, usually just after flowering.

But if all 4 are not getting the same exposure to sun and shade, they may never grow at quite the same rate with identical forms.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 11:21PM
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morz8~Thank you for answering my post. I am happy that the leaves are burned and not diseased. The 4 rhododendrons are all planted in a row and get the same NW exposure. The only thing different is that the leggy one was planted a year before the other 3.

The only thing I've been doing since I've had them is removing the trusses after flowering. Pinching out the new growth buds is something I haven't done yet because I'm afraid I'll pinch off the flowers. Okay, are the terminal buds the ones that grow on the side of the round, fat, blunt-tipped buds? Sometimes there's 3 or 4 of them surrounding the big fat bud and they are smaller and skinner. Oh..I'm such a newbie. lol. Thank you for helping me with this.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 1:42AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Yes, you've got it right with your description of the terminal/growth buds. And there is no need to worry about accidentally pinching the flower buds, just wait to remove the growth/terminal buds until they start to elongate and look ready to begin to unfurl later in spring...your plants will be blooming by then and you won't mistake the two....period of active growth for rhododendrons is immediately after bloom. The new flower buds for the following year won't begin to form until late summer, if you do this shaping chore in Spring you won't reduce flowering.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 10:28AM
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morz8 ~ You're amazing! I can't tell you how long I've been wanting to know how to do this properly. I've printed your instructions out and will follow them.

I have lots of big flower buds on my rhododendrons this year. More than last spring. I bet it's because I removed the faded trusses, do you think? When and how often should I fertilize them?

I love Rhododendrons. It's important to me to know how to take care of the ones that I have. So far, I have Jean Montague, Virgina Richards and Winsome.

Thanks again for all your help. I'm feeling more confident now.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 11:36AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Setting seed uses a lot of plant energy that would otherwise be directed to forming buds for the next years flowers, so your deadheading likely did improve your flowering.

In the PNW, most soils are somewhat acidic so are the correct ph for growing rhododendrons and azaleas. In soils of average fertility and the correct ph, rhododendrons and azaleas can be grown well without receiving further fertilization....my own are top dressed with compost each Spring, sometimes reapplied in Fall, and I've never found need to fertilize. These are not among the shrubs that have high nutritional requirements when grown in acidic soils and its better to fertilize in response to symptoms the plant is exhibiting than to just routinely apply a supplemental fertilizer. Symptoms would be an off color (yellowish) to the foliage or poor growth rate - If you choose to fertilize, do so with a light hand, using a product formulated for acid loving plants right around bloom time, just before active growth begins.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 12:42PM
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Morz8 ~ Thank you again. I haven't fertilized. What I've been adding is composted bark mulch. Is that okay? I noticed that the composted bark mulch turns into soil. So, each year I've been adding more bark mulch. I also added some coffee grounds occasionally because I heard on this forum that it is acidic and rhododendrons like acid soil. I hope I'm doing the right thing.

Today, on one of my rhododendrons (not Jean Marie) that the elongated buds are surrounding the big fat bud. Do I wait until after that rhody blooms to remove them as well?

Why do some rhododendrons get the leaf buds before blooming while others get them after blooming?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 9:21PM
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I have the same problem With about 60 Azalea Plants. I don't know how to post pictures, but go to the link"My Garden". morz8, you are using some terms that I do not know what they mean:

"Leggy", I guess means they are long and spendly.

"Trusses", Not sure about that term.

"DeadHeading" what does that mean ?

What should the PH in the soil be ?

I am new at working with plants. I planted these Encore Azaleas in about June of 2008. I know that was not the best time to plant them, but we had just got moved into this house and I did not want to wait till the next fall. About half of them are in the Sun and half in shade. Sun/Shade does not seem to make much difference. They seem to be doing pretty well and flower 3 or 4 times a year.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 9:12AM
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I forgot to post the picture link.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Garden

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 9:21AM
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rolacoy- This is my first attempt at helping someone on the forum. Keep in mind, there are more qualified people here that can answer you but I will do my best to answer a couple of your questions to the best of my ability.

'Deadheading' means to remove the dead or spent flowers which will encourage more flowering. It also gives the plant a nicer looking appearance.

A 'leggy' plant is usually tall looking without leaves on the lower part. Scraggly looking.

The 'truss' is the flower cluster. I hope this helps. Maybe others might want to explain it in better and tell you more about the PH level.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 9:25PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Cadence, the composted bark mulch is good, just keep reapplying annually or as needed to keep a continuous supply. If you feel you can remove the growth buds now before bloom without injuring the flower bud, go ahead and snap them off. If you wish to wait until later in the spring when your plants begin to bloom that's fine too if thats easier for you.

And I don't know why the leaf/growth buds begin to unfurl before bloom on some rhododendrons and not others! Sometimes those have developed on some plants that deadheading spent trusses is difficult without accidentally breaking off growth that is up and already in the way.

Rolacoy, cadences definitions were good. But in her case we were discussing large leafed rhododendrons rather than azaleas. Dormant growth buds on rhododendrons are located in leaf axils only, where on your azaleas there are dormant buds all along the stems just under the bark....the pinching method isn't as effective on azaleas and would be considerably more time consuming when a snip of your pruners should cause azaleas stems to sprout from below any cut you make.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 12:18AM
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Hi Morz8,
Thanks again. I honestly feel like I know my rhododendrons much better - thanks to you. I've printed out everything we've discussed. The buds on my rhodies are so big now, they look like they are ready to burst. lol. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 2:41AM
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