Rhodoendron winter die back

mnyeMay 22, 2009

We planted a rhododendron late last summer. It was very full and had several leaves. We are located on the east coast of Canada and have cold winters. This past winter was cold with lots of snow. The plant was completely buried most of the winter. Anyway, this spring most of the plant appears dead, about 75-80% of the leaves died and fell off the plant. Only a few branches are left with green leaves. Is there help for this plant? Do we cut off the dead branches? The only parts left that appear living are on one side of the plant (the plant is actually about 2' high and 2' around).

Any help would be appreciated.

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

It is possible that the plant had too much nitrogen fertilizer and stayed in "growth mode" instead of going dormant. When the really cold temps arrived, it was caught unprepared.

I would prune the dead parts if they do not leaf out by month's end. You may have to tweak for several years in order to get all of the growing stems back in sync with each other. To prevent cutting off next year's blooms, stop pruning around July.

Additional suggestions: Do not fertilize it any more starting in July so the plant will go dormant in the fall. Mulch it 3-4 inches to preserve soil moisture and, just as a safety check, verify that this variety can grow in your zone. If the fall or winter is dry a-n-d the soil has not frozen, water it a little. Make sure that the shrub is still planted above the surrounding soil and has not sunk due to soil settling. Water when the root ball feels almost dry or dry. Recheck mulch levels in early fall and add more if needed.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 12:32AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

I think this was a potted plant and that it was root-bound. Then, the root ball dried out and it suffered drought damage.

If so, you will need to dig it up and open up the root structure and soak it in water for 30 minutes before replanting. With the roots spread out.

Usually being buried in snow is the best thing that can happen in winter.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to grow rhododendrons and azaleas.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 7:33PM
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I bought 2 potted rhodos in October '07 and last year they were beautiful, grew and blossomed like crazy. I didn't feed them past July so I figured they would winter pretty well. However, they got creamed. Even now in June, all that's left of one is a single stalk and the other has maybe half its stalks and leaves and they're mottled brown and green. Question: is it better to just throw them out and start over, or are these much-reduced winter veterans somehow hardened now, and less likely to suffer similar damage this year? My property is not very windy or sunny but apparently that's a very relative thing.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 4:35PM
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