Old and overgrown Rhodies

SmallFlowerApril 26, 2011

I bought a new house last year and am looking forward to doing some landscaping this year, but I'm wondering about the Rhododendrons in front of my house. They are humongous, about 7 feet tall and one of them is rather scraggly on the bottom. They didn't seem to bloom last year; they're covered with little hard buds and have been ever since we moved here in June. They really don't do anything for the front of the house, but it goes against my grain to discard such venerable old plants. Are they worth saving? Should I maybe try moving them? There's a spot I think would work but it would be shadier than they're used to. Can they be cut down to much, much smaller and less neglected-looking?

I live in Western New York, in Zone 4-5. They are currently on a fully exposed south-facing wall. I'd like to move them to the east side of the house, but its shaded by a windbreak of trees.

Thanks for any advice you might have!

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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

You can cut them back to a more managable size in either of two ways. The first is to cut back all at once to a bit below the height you want. They should then regrow from there. They will look pretty bad for a couple of years,. The other option is to cut back 1/3 of the plant for three years. If you look in most books on rhodendrons under "rejuvenative pruning" or something similar, you'll find more detail.

It's also possible to move them even at this size. The root balls will be heavy, but they can be slid onto heavy poly or a tarp and dragged to a new location.

"Success with Rhododendrons and Azaleas" by H. Edward Reily has good information on pruning and moving.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 5:54AM
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