How to prune a 'half dead' purple gem?

diygardener(z6/NJ)June 18, 2006

Last year my dh bought a dwarf purple gem rhodie and planted it by our patio in a spot it did not like (way too much sun). It bloomed, but then as the summer wore on a lot of its leaves burned off. It bloomed again this spring, but had nowhere near as many blooms as it did last year. So two weeks ago I moved it to a spot where it should be much happier--dappled shade and acidic soil that is coated with pine needles from a nearby tree. I'm wondering if I should now prune it, and if so, how. After I transplanted it I did cut out all dead stems but left any that had any leaves left. Now the middle is mostly little brown twigs and many of the stems throughout the plant have leaves on top but not lower down (Maybe it's always like that, but just more noticeable because dead stems were cut out?)I think this is what is called leggy??As much as I would like blooms next spring I am more concerned with the plant's long-term health. It seems to have handled the move well (hasn't lost any leaves since). Well, as you can probably tell by now, I'm no rhodie expert! So what do you think of what I've done so far? And what should I do next? Leave it? Prune it hard? Thanks!

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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

You have done the best things you could for this plant. It is stressed enough with the previous poor location and the transplanting. I would not give it a hard prune until it is healthy. If it is too tall, you could cut the top back, but I would not remove more than 30% of the green leaves. Less is better in this case.

Next spring I would give it a shot of Holly-tone before it blooms.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2006 at 6:02PM
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I have 6 of those little beauties in my garden.
Next year, right after the bloom AND if it is healthy just SHEAR it.
It will look ugly (banch of bare brown twigs and nothing else) right away, but in a month and a half or two you'll have a perfectly rounded mounded shrub. I do that every two years and that keeps them full at 3' wide and not more than 2' tall.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2006 at 9:59PM
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Great tips. Hope you don't mind me asking a question, diy... ego - when you shear purple gem (which is what I think I'll do next year), does it still have lots of time to form flower buds for the following year?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 7:31AM
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If you shear it RIGHT after the bloom or even better when some flowers are still present, but majority are gone, you'll have a nice bloom next season.
With such a plant as PG you practically can't do a deadheading, so by shearing it you'll perform two tasks in one: removing spent seadheads and promoting branching.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 2:06PM
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Thanks for the great advice. I'm glad I haven't made the situation any worse for this plant. Will just watch it through next spring and hope for the best.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 6:28PM
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Thank you very much, ego... I have noticed that you can't really deadhead the purple gem easily after trying to remove a couple of the spent flowers, so I gave up. I will shear it at the time you recommended, next year. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 7:42PM
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