Brown leaves on Rhodys

bartfrApril 24, 2011

I'm sure this has been covered multiple times, but...I have a Rhody that we planted last spring. During the winter many of the leaves began to brown, seemingly starting at the tips and edges and moving back towards the stem. We live in Pa. The winter had a lot of snow, but not excessive cold. The plant is not in a particularly windy area (south side of the house). This spring many of the stems containing brown leaves are still showing signs of life...with some fresh green growth and even some green buds. So, even with extensive browning and many leaves falling off, I am holding out hope. I would like to know what caused the browning. My guess is that we may not have given it adequate water last summer. Thoughts? Suggestions on how to nurture it now? Thanks.

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Timing says it was cold damage.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 11:11PM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

While it is important for rhododendrons to go into the winter with adequate moisture, fall rains usually supply it.

The key probably lies with the southern exposure. Winter damage to rhodendron leaves involves the interplay of cold, wind and sun. Even if your lows were not extreme, bright direct sun can and does dessicate the leaves when temperatures are enough below freezing so that the moisture lost to transpiration can't be replaced.

The brown leaves will fall off. Prune back to live green wood and the plant will recover over the summer. Next year, try to provide some shade or use an anti-dessicant like Wilt-Pruf.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 5:53AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

What you see is typical of desiccation damage in winter. The moisture can't reach the ends and edges of the leaves and they turn brown. It is caused by the roots being frozen or dry, and sun and wind hitting the leaves. They leaves try to function but don't get any water from the roots. Most of us just put up with this. Some people wrap their plants with burlap. If you do this keep the top open. Some people spray twice, once in the late fall and once in mid-winter, with an anti-desiccant spray. You must be sure to spray both the top and bottom of the leaves. It is only cosmetic. The plant will survive. New leaves will come out and look good all summer.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 11:27AM
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