My Rhodies Are In Trouble? HELP

suebot(6CT)April 14, 2007

Hi All-

I only have two rhodies in the front of my house (SE exposure). All winter they behaved like most rhodies do; when it went below freezing their leaves curled up and pointed down. Now the leaves are reddish-brown and curled. The almost looked like they were torched around the edges into the middle. I am not sure if this is a good description but they look bad and sad. One is completely in that condition. The older rhodie has one side that is in that condition. They weren't protected this winter. Could it be that we had little snow protection? I gave them some slow releasing fertilizer that is in the form of tiny round blue balls last weekend.

Should I prune off the dead looking leaves or just leave the rhodies alone for now. The one that is complete distraught is only 3 years old this spring and never set a bud yet.

Please help...

Thanking you in advance,

suebot in CT

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I am not sure if this applies to your case but it is normal for some evergreen azaleas to take on a burgandy-red in cold weather. Also, wind/cold injury causes the edges of the leaves to turn brown so you may want to protect your two rhodies next year from the cold. Continue monitoring them and manually check soil moisture levels until the leaves turn green. Luis

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 10:48PM
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Thanks Luis-

You are right. The leaves are almost a coppery color. Every leaf on the youngest rhodie is looking bad; copper color dead looking leaves all curled up and pointing down. The other rhodie is only looking this way on one side. Most likely the most unprotected side that gets the brunt of winter winds. Do you think they will come back?

suebot in CT

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 10:31AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hard to say from here but it does not sound good. All you can do is provide them with the soil, light and moisture requirements and not go overboard with them. When plants are in stress, I switch my chemical fertilizer applications to something organic and simple like liquid seaweed until they recover.

I agree that the unprotected side should show the effects of wind or winter injury. The other side(s) should look better or ok.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 2:48PM
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gardenscout(z6 NE RI)

sue, if it is any consolation, I have three rhodies in the same condition you have described. I am sure it was the weird winter, but I don't know what to do about it either.

The three that are affected were in exposed areas (one on a north side, and two on an east side, but interestingly a different one that is on an east side is perfectly healthy.

I have never pruned a rhodie before, but I am going to cut them all back and move them to an east location.

Good luck with yours. I feel your pain.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 10:38PM
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there is a long post on the New England Gardening forum about winterburn on Rhodies this year. Extensive problems. Wait. Don't despair. When it gets a little warmer, you'll see what is dead and which branches put out new growth. then prune back to live wood. You may need to reshape the shrub, even taking out some live wood. Overgrown rhodies can be hacked down, and be beautifully rejuvenated, so unless you have marginally hardy ones,they will probably live....even though they've been damaged. I would be cautious about fertilizer right now, because they have already been stressed. Perhaps apply some half strenght Miracid, which can't do any harm, but hold off on anthing stronger.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 12:45AM
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Luis, gardenscout, and idabean-

Thanks for your input. I went to a garden center yesterday and they have been seeing and hearing the same problems. All of my daffs are blooming and that makes me happy. It seems that is the only flower the deer don't eat in my yard. They are also my favorite flowers. I plan to replace the young rhodie with a Blushing Pink Knock Out rose next week. I have heard so much about them. I can't wait to see if they are as carefree as they are touted to be.

suebot in CT

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 12:19PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Wow! It always amazes me the differences due to geographical location. My daffodils bloomed in early March and yours are now doing their thing! Lordy lord!

Knockouts are used quite heavily here in Dallas/Ft. Worth (I have one... the original red color) but, in CT, you still have to protect them from the cold weather. See winter protection ideas in the Rose Forum or click here.

Blackspot has not been much of an issue here. Being a rose, they will need 6 hours of sun or more so do not forget about that. They definitely have one of the longest blooming cycles out there!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 8:41PM
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jclark42(z6 CT)


I am seeing something similar on our Rhododendrons here in central CT as well. The symptoms sound similar to your plant- leaves on previously healthy branches turn brown form the edges in, eventually killing the branch. This has happened to two of our large, well established, large-leafed rhododendron, as well as some new small-leaved plants we bought from a nursery last year. I've noticed this same infection on most of the rhododendron in the Oxford/Seymour/Milford/Orange area..

I'm planning to write to the CT extension service to see if they have any advice.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 9:46PM
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Please let me know what the CT extension says about this rhodie problem. I have been seeing it all over in Newtown, Monroe, and Trumbull! I wonder if it has to do with our crazy winter weather. I love a cold crisp winter with alot of snow. Needless to say I was quite disappointed this winter. Even the fall was unusually warm. I may have to move to Maine to get my four season fix.

suebot in CT

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 6:06PM
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Sue, Josh...
I am in CT also, Naugatuck. I was just commenting yesterday to my neighbor how awful my rhodies looked...and driving around I noticed everyone elses looked the same way. I NEVER had to "protect" my rhodies, and they always did fine. It's strange because in actuality we had an unusually mild winter.

I'm looking forward to anything you may hear.

I thought it was just me!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 1:42PM
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The lack of snow cover was the problem. There was no insulation from fluctuating temperatures. 'Mild' for us (no snow) means no protection from winds and temps for plants.
This winterburn is not a disease caused by pathogens, it is the result of environmental stress.

Don't hurry to pull up the shrubs. See if they leaf out, prune the dead wood. If they have really suffered a great setback, you may just decide to heave them. But a nice big plant should likely live, and come back well in a season.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 12:28AM
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dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

If you have a deer problem, don't plant roses! They are Bambi's fave...

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 5:24PM
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I just came home not 5 minutes ago with 1 Rainbow Knock Out and 1 Pink Knock Out Rose bush to replace my rhodie that looks deader than a doornail! How's that for timing? They will be planted next to 2 Fairies that I haven't seen them sweet deer eat YET. They also leave my New Dawn Climber pretty much alone. They probably get full on all my daylilies!!!!!

Thanks for the heads up,
suebot in CT

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 6:02PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

For many of us, this past winter our plants took a beating with the very unusual winters some of us had with warm weather followed by late freezes. They have what is more typical of drought damage but in this case was caused by the warm weather followed by late freezes. It causes Botryosphaeria dothidea which causes leaves to turn dull green and then brown and roll and droop. Cankers form on branches which may girdle the branch. This is the most common disease of rhododendron in the landscape. A typical symptom of this fungal disease is scattered dying branches on an otherwise healthy plant. Leaves on infected stems turn brown, then droop and roll inward. These leaves often lay flat against the stem and will remain attached. The pathogen can infect all ages of stem tissue through wounds, pruning cuts, and leaf scars. Heat, drought stress, and winter injury can increase disease incidence. Cankers on branches can gradually grow through the wood until the stem becomes girdled. Diseased wood is reddish brown in appearance. Discolored wood viewed in longitudinal cross section often forms a wedge that points toward the center of the stem, and the pith may be darker brown than the surrounding wood. Sanitation and applying a fungicide such as metalaxyl (Subdue) after pruning my provide some control. Plants should be grown in partial shade, with mulch and kept well watered during dry periods. All dying branches should be promptly pruned out in dry weather and all discolored wood should be removed. Plants should also be protected from rough treatment during maintenance activities to prevent unnecessary wounds.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rhododendron and Azalea Troubleshooting

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 10:11PM
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