cutting back -best time?

brookney(Z6MA)June 4, 2005

When is the time to cut back rhododendrum and azaleas? right after they bloom or in the fall?


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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

If they need pruning to improve their shape (pruning isn't required for them) - do it now if they have finished flowering. Pruning in Fall will remove the flower buds for next year, the buds are set in late summer for the next season's bloom.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2005 at 9:35PM
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I have an azalea that looks like it's holding two helium filled balloons. The balloons are what flowered this year. There is new growth on the plants but the balloons are bare stalks until the big poof at the top. Should I cut the balloons off? If so how far down?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 8:04AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Miriah, azaleas have dormant growth buds under the bark the length of their stems. They should sprout from immediately below a pruning cut, wherever you make it. So, prune to please your own eye....

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 11:58AM
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Thank you MorZ8, I will get to it tomorrow. At present we are getting much needed rain and under a tornado watch. Ah Michigan, gotta love it.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 6:04PM
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Thanks for your input.

I have one more question however.. I purchased 3 PJM Rhododendrums recently that I would like to cut down a bit. I was told if I cut back nwo that they wouldnt bloom next year--is this true?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 1:49PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

brookney, recently planted rhododendrons will often spend their first year or so in the ground establishing themselves (roots) in place of setting flower buds anyway. If you cut back now, they may have enough stored energy to set flower buds on new growth for next year, or may not.

I'm curious, you just purchased these and already want to cut them back? Is the shape bad, or are they going to be the wrong sized shrub for your site?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 4:57PM
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My Azalea's have finished blooming and now they look horrible! All the old flowers are dead and brown. What can I do to improve how they look? It doesn't sound like I should cut them back since they already have a nice shape.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2005 at 12:33PM
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some are worse than others about holding the spent flowers.
if you can't wait on them to fall naturally, you can run them through your fingers and pull them off or take a broom and gently brush them around, knocking them off. use either approach when they are good and dry, not after a rain. eventually, they will decompose and fall.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2005 at 4:17PM
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I'm on it tomorrow! Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2005 at 7:58PM
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I have some Azalea's in front of my porch were I just moved to. They are really tall and the branch's are really big. What and When should I do something with them. I cant stand on my front porch and see anything in front of my house.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 7:50PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Best time is immediately after they have bloomed in Spring. If you need to lower the height significantly, azaleas have dormant growth buds all along the stems just under the bark and should sprout from just below any cut you make.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 10:37AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Brookney, you say you recently purchased 3 PJM Rhododendrons and you want to cut them down a bit.

Already?! I think moving them to a location where they have room to reach their genetic potential would be more in order.
I have one eight feet tall and as wide. It's over twenty years old though. They get bigger than most people realize.
It did for me.

Pic taken late last winter.
The little cabin I built is not my house. ;-)

    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 11:02PM
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I need to cut back Azeleas on property line they are around 7 feet tall and massive around. Can I take them down close to the ground and let them start over. It is Jan.20th and we have already had 2 snowfalls and will get at least one more . Do not want to kill them.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2011 at 10:29AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Jon, I'm not sure where you are but it would seem someplace where winters are somewhat mild. In my own Z8, the problem I see with winter pruning is we can have enough warmish days that dormant buds could be triggered into growth - but we aren't out of the woods for a hard freeze possibility, and if that should happen following a period of mild weather that new growth could be damaged or killed. If I were you, I'd wait until late winter or Spring, of course the standard answer is to wait until flowering so that effect isn't lost for the season.

If they are healthy and well established, while not without any risk at all, you can usually cut them down to within a few inches of the ground and have them grow back. And they will grow back to their original height, if you find yourself pruning regularly to keep them within bounds sometimes moving them is a better option, then chose other varieties that will stay more the height you have in mind.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 9:36PM
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My husband and I are new homeowners and we have a HUGE Rhododendron in the front yard. We must have cut it back too late or early last year because it didn't bloom this year. However, we live in the NW and with all the rain we had this spring/summer, the thing has grown out of control and is now blocking half the sidewalk and almost all of the front windows. When and how can we cut it back, so as not to destroy it?

Now, in the back yard is another Rhody that the previous owners or whoever planted it didn't take care of. Right above the ground, it goes into a "V" shape and at the tip of each is a little cluster of leaves. It bloomed this year, but it looks pitiful because it's not full. I wanted to dig it up, but if we can salvage it, I'm happy to try.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 6:23PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Rhododendrons shouldn't need regular pruning, if this one has outgrown the site after pruning last year, chances are its in the wrong place.

Rhododendrons set their buds for the coming years flowers in Summer, they are setting buds now for next Spring. The best time to prune is immediately after flowering.

Without a photo to go by, this plant sounds large and likely heavy. If you could manage the weight and wanted to move it, you would find they usually move successfully - let us know if that's a possibility and we can give you the tips for relocating one.

As for the smaller plant, some varieties are naturally leggy, others will be sparse and leggy in too much shade. What kind of light is it getting? If shade is not too dense for it to grow well (and apparently it had enough light to bloom) - Dormant buds in rhododendron are at the leaf axils, where leaf joins stem. Cutting just above a whorl of leaves will stimulate dormant buds below your cut to sprout. If you must cut lower than any existing leaves to guide your plant, look for faint rings on the bark that mark where there once were leaves and cut just above the ring.

When dealing with a smaller, younger plant, you can also remove (pinch off) the terminal leaf buds as they begin to elongate in Spring (closely following bloom time). There is a plant hormone produced in the leaf buds that inhibits development of dormant buds lower on the stem, removing the top/terminal buds will encourage those to grow and the plant to branch out. Flower buds (fatter and blunt tipped) do not produce the hormone so no need to delay flowering, just watch for the foliage buds and pinch or snap those off.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 1:09AM
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