Rhododendron large circular holes on leaf edges

rhododendriumJune 24, 2011


I love your site, and I would love to hear your input.

I purchased a rhododendron plant about a month ago and in the past couple of weeks or so these holes have begun appearing on the new shoots. Right now it has pretty much taken over the whole plant.

Do anyone know what this could be? Previous searches mentioning circular holes turned up issues of small holes that were not on the leaf edge, and the cuts were not quite as sharp (like the ones I am dealing with).

Will my plant survive? What can I do to stop this?

Here is a photo of what I am talking about:


Thank you in advance!

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Leafcutter bee, and a busy one, or more than one? That's a shame on an evergreen like rhododendron. She's cutting out the leaf parts to use in her egg laying and should be done soon - if not done now.

These are are important and native pollinators and I don't know there is much you can do short of temporarily covering your plant with one of the row cover type fabrics during times of peak activity in your area.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 7:03PM
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Thank you so much for the prompt reply!! I really appreciate it!

Interesting that it's leafcutter bees! That would explain why I found nothing around the plant.

I guess I am hoping for now that they are done, as it has worked very hard on this plant!

As it's an evergreen, how long can I expect this season's damage to last?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 7:17PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I'm glad you find the bee interesting; sadly those leaves are permanently (cosmetically) damaged....the health of your plant isn't harmed but the appearance has been changed. The leaves will still function, but with added 'character'. Next Springs foliage growth after blooming will hide it for the most part, and rhododendron leaves drop naturally at approx 3 or so years of age so it will eventually shed them on its own.

If you are greatly bothered by the appearance, you could pinch off those new shoots. That wouldn't affect next years blooms but it would reduce overall growth by a year...and it looks like this is a new plant not yet installed, but still containerized?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 8:40PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I went through this a few years ago too, and I decided to enjoy the evidence that I had busy and positive insect life in my garden. Nice change from weevils, which I have battled over the years! And I found that because visitors to my garden would ask about them, I was able to spread the word about these interesting little creatures.

I think that was two years ago, and in the intervening years I have seen no evidence of further leafcutter bee activity. So they come and they go... and as Morz says, so do the leaves. Evergreens always do lose their old foliage, they just lose it more slowly.

I would actually suggest you simply remove some of the most damaged leaves if the appearance bothers you.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 7:36PM
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