Need bushes not blossoms

iamdouglasMay 5, 2009

Hello all. . .

Last fall I planted several Rhodies in a wooded yard. They had blooms on them when I planted them. I need them to grow for a screen to hide some utilities near my house. At this point I need them to grow tall and bussshy. Should I clip the buds off to concentrate the energy of the plants into growing mass instead of blossoms? I assume the blossoms can come later when they are established.

Rhodies are not really native to my site and I'm more concerned with indiginousity (is that a word). What would happen if I never let them bloom by continually clipping the blossoms? I probably wouldn't do that but I'm curious what would happen to the plant if never allowed to bloom.

Any ideas?

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I've never seen any information that would lead me to think preventing them from blooming has any effect on their growth. Rhododendrons are not fast growing shrubs and trying to hurry them in other ways might be detrimental to their health, i.e. too much fertilizer and roots will burn (they are not heavy feeders), new growth will be susceptible to insects, disease, and winter injury.

The buds for flowers are set in late summer and that is when the plants energy was directed into bud formation - not now.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 10:25AM
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This is one of my azaleas, I have two each of three kinds and this is one that is blooming and has some pretty flowers, but it has almost no leaves. I planted them last year and although I do want mine to bloom, they don't look very nice without any leaves. I would also like to know about anything I can do to get them to grow some leaves, but I still want to keep the blossoms. Is this similar to how your rhododendrons look?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 5:49PM
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Zooie, my rhodies are not blooming yet. They just have unopened buds. Intuitively, it seems to me that if blossoms were nipped in the bud (so to speak) the plant might have more energy to develop foliage. As in pruning a limb the remaining limbs develop more energetically. However as in trimming at this time of year one must be careful about fresh cuts which might be vulnerable to insect damage.

I agree with morz8 that over fertilizing is unwarranted and dangerous for roots but I still tend to think that judicious trimming of buds before blooming might channel that energy to plant development. Once the buds are open the only savings of energy might be realized due to lack of seed development after fertization of flowers. Which is an energy drain. No?
Zooie, your plant seems to be "obsessed" with flower development. Hornie little critter. If some of the sex organs were trimmed maybe the plant would get to work developing leaves.

A question. . . how can insect and disease damage be minimized after trimming at this time of year? Maybe morz8 has a point. The safest time of year for trimming buds might be in the fall or winter but I'm tempted to try energy channeling tactics now. I'm kind of a "now" kind of person.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 7:59AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

When you remove the flower buds before they flower the plant will respond by sprouting dormant buds earlier than they would if not cut off. You will then get a bushier plant than normal for that cultivar. The downside is a lot that bushiness will die out eventually due to overcrowding.
Vegative buds initiate stem growth earlier than stems with blossoms on them. I don't see any advantage in removing the flowering buds. It's not a matter of 'energy', it's a matter of timing.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 11:36AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Ummm, sort of some interesting information coming out here - But according to my old out-of-print rhody 'bible', "a plant hormone is produced by leaf buds which inhibits development of dormant growth buds along the stem; flower buds do not produce this hormone".

So pinching off leaf buds will result in more dense, more compact plant. And again, no reference is made to effects on growth by removing the flower buds.

iamdouglas, I'm not sure how rhododendrons are going to respond to a 'now kind of person' - these are not shrubs that are usually among those first considered when needed an instant screen. I looked this morning for you for documents indicating disbudding might improve growth rate and I don't find any - rhododendron growth is described as slow to moderate at best depending on which cultivar. I do find some fertilizer suggestions geared towards producing larger plants more rapidly but only for commercial growers in the controlled environment of a greenhouse.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 1:10PM
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I appreciate the input that you folks have volunteered. I'm getting the picture that the rhododendron is not a fast growing plant and that it might not have been the best choice for a screening plant.
Oh well, I might end up interspersing some nelly stephens holly plants. That could be an attractive display.
Any thoughts on that?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 12:49AM
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