Rhododendrons turning yellow, falling leaves, looks sad?

lheidnerJuly 22, 2008

Hi everyone,

My fiance and I had our landscaping done a month ago, and 3 of the plants are rhododendrons. We asked our landscaping guys how often to water everything, and they said every day. We've been getting more rain than usual in Michigan, and I don't water when it rains. The plants are facing east so they get morning sun and I think they have mostly shade towards the end of the day (blocked by the house).

The rhododendrons seemed to be doing fine at first, but over the past week or so, the leaves are turning yellow to brown and are falling off (or are easy to take off when you touch them). Our Jap Maple is also not as bright burgundy as it was but doesn't seem to be dying like the rhodes are (and I believe they are supposed to get darker in late summer? I'm not sure). I thought I was overwatering so I have stopped watering everyday. The very top layer of mulch is dry and crusty feeling, but then you dig down an inch or deeper and it is moist. Here are some pics, notice the leaves fallen on the mulch. The first pic is a before pic - the rest are now. I don't have a close up of the rhodes when they were planted. Please help!!

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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

I don't see a real problem. On hot days the leaves will naturally curl and droop. That is entirely normal in the heat of the day. If they are droopy in the morning, then they are either dry or are dying because they were watered too much. Both conditions look the same at first. Being too wet is eventually fatal.

The dead dry leaves look like leaves that are 2 or 3 years old and are being shed from older branches. That is normal and natural.

Err on the side of not enough water. If they are dry in the morning, then water thoroughly. With a good mulch, watering is not needed too often.

Cut off the bunch of 3 or so leaves that look like they are dying. That could be a borer or some other localized problem. It is best to remove it before it can affect the rest of the plant.

Here is a link that might be useful: Common Problems and Their Solutions.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 8:23PM
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Thanks rhodyman. As I was taking off that bunch of brown leaves, the whole branch came off. I bent over to look at the other rhode and saw a yellow/brown bunch there too, and that whole branch came off. Weird. I am definitely going to stop watering so much. They weren't wilty this morning so I think I'm ok. Thanks again for your help!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 5:19PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Came off. I'm not sure I understand. Torn, jagged, or soft tissue that was limp? Could it had been broken, possibly as it was being installed a month ago?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 8:47PM
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It was soft tissue, kind of just easily came off when I pulled it. I guess I didn't think of that, that it may have been broken and eventually just died.. hmm. I guess I'm worrying too much :) Thanks again everyone.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 9:31PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

If it was hollow where it broke easily, it is borers. There isn't a lot you can do for borers. Just make sure that any you find are killed and hope you don't get more.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 2:37PM
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Last July 2008 I planted my first "purple gem" rhode. I used a mix of 60% cedar mulch and 40% Miracle Grow Soil. After planting I sprinkled "ferti-lome" around the planting area. It's for Camellias, Azaleas & Rhodes. A week or so ago, however, I noticed the interior of the plant had a good number of leaves that had turned a golden color. Is this typical at the beginning of fall weather, or is it an indication of a potential problem?

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 12:55PM
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