How to take care of Rhododendron?

hamr63(z5 OH)May 27, 2005

There is a bush in my yard and someone told me it is a Rhododedron. I know absolutely nothing about plants. It gets very pretty bright pink flowers on it this time every year, but they seem to die really quickly and then the rest of the year it is just a green bush. Is this how the bush is supposed to be or does it need some TLC that it isn't getting. I don't know how to take care of it. Am I supposed to cut the dead blooms off? Should it be pruned? I wouldn't know how to do that if it does. I like the bush and want it to be healthy, but I don't know what to do for it (if anything). Please help.

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

It sounds like it's doing fairly well on it's own if it sets flower buds and blooms every year for you. And, you aren't the first to make that complaint about rhododendrons....they put on almost a Dolly Parton type show for about a month in Spring, then are plain green and boring to some the other 11 months (I've heard that a lot in my own household, but then rhododendrons are very common place here, few yards are without).

Deadhead the spent flowers by pinching the flower stem at the base and snapping it off, no pruning required unless you need to improve the shape of your shrub. Mulch well with something organic (will cool roots, condition soil, conserve moisture) and give it regular water. If the foliage is a pretty color, and you don't see symptoms of anything eating the leaves, no more is required.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2005 at 8:10PM
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hamr63(z5 OH)

Do I still need to water it if we have plenty of rain? The last two springs/summers that seems to be about all we have had. When I said that my blooms die really quickly I mean I get the "Dolly Parton" show for like 10 days and thats it, gone. What types of mulch would you recommend? I have never mulched anything so you'll need to be very specific as to what to use and what I actually do with it. Thanks for your help. Signed Clueless in Ohio. LOL

    Bookmark   May 27, 2005 at 8:57PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

If it's been raining, your flowers aren't going to last as long, and I shouldn't have implied all rhododendrons bloom for the same length of time, they don't...

We're cool in summer here and I water with drip hoses, deeply, once each week that it hasn't rained. If your soil is sandy or very fast draining rather than the amended clay base soil I have, you might even find you need to water more often if your summers get quite warm.

Organic mulch - anything that once was a live plant. So compost or composted steer manure (plants that have been diverted through a digestive track), both available by the bag and not expensive at the box stores like Home Depot. You can shred leaves with the mower in Fall and add those to your garden, some people mulch with pine straw. I don't care for bark chips, and bagged mushroom compost is the wrong PH for rhododendrons.

Just spread it out 2 - 3" deep over the root zone, which will extend out a little farther than the longest branches. You can even toss it with your hands, if the steer manure is well composted it should be odor free and dry (and the product at Home Depot for $0.98 has been). I mulch all my beds, perennials and shrubs, with compost each Spring, some I make but due to limited space for a large composting set up, I buy my share too.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2005 at 9:27PM
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Late last summer I planted a large rhododendron bought from a nursery, watered it with a dripping hose frequently during a long hot summer, mulched it, etc. This spring I see no buds, tho the bush made it through a bitter winter here in the northeast. does this mean no flowers this season? did i do something wrong?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 12:59AM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Jane: No buds does mean no flowers this year. Doesn't mean you did anything wrong, though. Often rhododendrons - and other palnts - will not bloom the first year after planting because they have put most of their energy into root and vegetative growth. Flower buds for spring bloom in 2011 would have been set late summer 2010.

If, however, your rhodendron is planted in dense shade, that might explain the lack of buds. If so, it would be best to move it to where it gets some sun or at least good light.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 6:01AM
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I would like to transplant a rhody bush and wondered when would be the best time of the year to do it.

Many thanks,

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 9:27PM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Bridget: rhododendrons are among the easiest plants to move because of their shallow and densely fibrous root systems. No time of year is better than another as long as the newly transplanted bush is kept moist. Spring or fall is probably a better choice than high summer but only because natural rainfall is more likely to reduce the need for watering.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 5:13AM
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I have a rapidly growing plant that blooms late every year if at all. I want to reduce its size by about half. It's about 25 years old & about 10'h x5'd. Should I start radical pruning now or should I start pruning a certain percentage for the next x years to get it where I want it?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 8:43PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

The rule of thumb is to remove up to 1/3 each year. Also, prune shortly after it finishes blooming. It will form new flower buds this summer, so prune now so you don't loose next years flowers.

When you prune the top back, the leaves that are exposed to the sun will probably sun burn. That is normal. The sooner you prune, the more new leaves will come out to cover this area.

It is best to cut back the thicker branches more than the thinner branches.

Some people prune back severely and it is usually OK if the plant is healthy and not in too much shade.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to care for rhododendrons

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 8:54PM
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I have two established rhodos which blossom beautifully every season. I have never pinched the spent blooms off before, but now am hearing that I should. What is the purpose? Will they produce even more blooms, or bigger blooms if I do? What happens inside the plant when the old flowers are removed? I also just pruned some of the branches since they were getting too wide, and lost some of the baby buds by doing so.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 10:43PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Healthy larger rhododendrons will often produce more terminal flower buds than terminal leaf buds as the plant grows older. I don't usually suggest anyone get onto a ladder to deadhead, sometimes deadheading just isn't practical.

Rhododendrons expend a great amount of energy setting seed in summer, energy that would otherwise go into flower bud production. Skipping deadheading can lead to heavier flowering every other year, more pronounced on some, and on younger rhododendrons - it isn't necessarily true of all of them or all ages of them. If you can safely reach and don't plan to collect the seed, there is no reason to let the seed form. Those persistent seed pods can distract from their appearance too when down more near eye level or lower, you'll have fresh blooms with remnants of the old still visible the following year.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 11:08PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Morz8 gave a good reply. I don't deadhead (remove spent flowers before seed pods form) but most people believe in principle that it is a good idea whether they do it or not. It is a lot of work for any miniscule good it does. In case you want to try it, AND your plants haven't formed seed pods yet (which I doubt), here is how you do it:

Deadheading flowers involves removing the structure left after blooming before seedpods form.

A rhododendron or azalea flower is composed of several florets connected to the stem by a base that is easy to break. When deadheading just grab the spent flower near this base area and twist it sideways and break it off in this spongy area.

Try not to break any of the buds that are around the base of the flower.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 4:28PM
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raskell(north ontario c)

l have just bought a Rhododendron and am wondering how far from the house l should plant it. can the roots affect the foundation and weeping tiles? Hope not!!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 7:46PM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

raskell: Rhododendron roots are fine and hair-like and remain in a compact mass close to the soil surface. They pose no danger to a foundation or drainage system. How far from the house to plant has more to do with the ultimate height of the particular variety planted. Too often tall growing types are planted where they soon obscure windows and/or doors. They then need to be cut back, spoiling the natural growth habit.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 5:17AM
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