Rhododendron buds gone

empressjenf(6b PA)April 28, 2013

Last spring/summer my dad gave me a rhododendron. He had two and I commented that I've always wanted one, so he dug one up and gave it to me. This was right after the flowers had turned brown and it was already a good size (maybe three feet tall). I planted it in an area that gets morning sun and, after a few weeks, it looked green and healthy.

This spring we've have weird weather--hot, then cold, then warm. After one cold night I saw all but one of the unopened buds on my rhody were off, and later the last bud was off the plant after a night of rain. I figured the cold weather took my flowers, however my dad's rhody still has all its buds. Now, my dad does live about an hour away from me and it might not have been quite as cold there, but the temperature probably wasn't that different. After seeing his, I'm wondering if something else happened to my flower buds--perhaps because it was moved? Anyone with rhododendron experience have suggestions?

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If all the buds just suddenly disappeared - as opposed to turning brown, for example - deer are the likely culprits. Deer will neatly nip off the buds and eat them. Squirrels are another possibility, but not nearly as likely as the first.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 5:48AM
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empressjenf(6b PA)

There are no deer in our neighborhood--or at least not that I have ever seen. It is a townhouse complex with houses very close together and I have never seen deer anywhere nearby. Plus the rhododendron is right outside the living room window, and no other plants around it were damaged. Also, I don't think my dog would have missed that opportunity to bark away happily. Now, we do have plenty of squirrels, ducks, and an occasional rabbit. All my buds are high, so I doubt rabbits, but not a problem for squirrels.

I should also mention the buds were scattered around the trunk, some undamaged (aside from detached from the plant). One of my first thoughts was the dang kids around here, but after the last bud fell off I find it hard to believe. It was there the night before, it rained all night, then the bud was on the ground. I was up all night with school work and insomnia, and my brother is currently sleeping right inside the window on the couch--we would have heard someone walking in the front yard area (plus the dog would have alerted us). The last bud was on a branch in the back, so not easy to see (which falls into my kids theory).

Could it be squirrels that killed my buds? Those dang guys get into everything!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 2:03PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Squirrels, kids, or something. They don't fall off.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 5:51PM
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empressjenf(6b PA)

Thanks you both for the input.

Dang squirrels! I guess next year I'll have to get a repellent. The worst part is I have yet to see the colors of these flowers! I peeled back a layer on one of the buds that was killed and saw pink, but now I have to wait *another* year to actually see them. Hopefully my dad's will bloom, and I'm guessing it's the same as the one he gave me.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 3:38AM
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Both gray squirrels and, especially, red squirrels will do exactly what you describe - bite off the bud and let it fall to the ground. Red squirrels do the exact same thing with spruce tree cones - a major food source for them - and I've often thought that the similarity in appearance between the cones and the rhododendron buds may explain this behavior. Now if you have no red squirrels in the area, I can be wrong twice.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 5:33AM
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empressjenf(6b PA)

No red squirrels around here, but we do have plenty of Eastern gray squirrels. I'm thinking if it wasn't kids, it was the squirrels. Next year I'll have to get something to deter then from my rhody. I read they also will go after lilac flowers, and I'm hoping my lilac will be mature enough to bloom next spring, so that will need protection as well. The squirrels don't touch the dang daffodils (I didn't plant them, I don't care for them, and they keep popping up where I don't want them), and at least they leave my other flowers alone, especially my Rose of Sharon. I think they may have taken a few of my mom's tulips too. Oh well.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 2:35AM
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Didn't your first post say your dad dug it up " right after the flowers had turned brown"? That might suggest that the flower buds had already failed before you planted it and the brittle remains were knocked of by wind or rain?
No expert but just a thought.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 7:51PM
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empressjenf(6b PA)

Ann: I had hoped that was the case, meaning next spring it would bloom normally, but the possibilities of squirrels doing the damage is very real. Either way, I'm using some sort of squirrel deterrent next spring just in case it was those little punks.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:48AM
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