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Big rhodos -- can I prune way down?

Posted by sankavarmuch 7 (My Page) on
Mon, May 11, 09 at 9:42

I have about 30 feet of rhodos against by house, serving as a hedge/foundation cover. When I bought the house 9 years ago, they were below the window height. Now, they are almost seven feet tall, and looking over grown. And they block my house and windows.

Rather than remove them, I'd like to consider a severe cut back of them. The problem is, if I top them by two feet each, I'm cutting off all the green, leaving just brown wood on top.

If I do that, will leaves grow from the cuts and fill in? Is this an okay idea? Or should I really take them out and start over?

Thank you.

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RE: Big rhodos -- can I prune way down?

  • Posted by morz8 Z8 Wa coast (My Page) on
    Mon, May 11, 09 at 11:52

Growth buds on rhododendrons form in the leaf axils (where leaf joins stem). When you have to cut into a branch below any current leaves, look for faint rings on the bark which mark the ends of previous growth periods where there once were leaves. Careful inspection should reveal small bumps which are dormant growth buds under the bark. Make your cuts just above the rings so that dormant buds below them will be stimulated into growth.

If you can't find any rings or dormant buds on bare branch areas, make your cuts wherever you must to get the shape you desire; later, when new growth starts, you'll go back and remove all stubs down to the new growth.

Dormant buds should begin to grow in approx a month on smaller limbs, 10 weeks on tall main trunks. Healthy rhododendrons will usually respond well to hard pruning, but you should know that it isn't completely without risk.

Removing/replacing established plants is a personal decision - best case scenario would have been that varieties which would reach an appropriate mature size were installed to begin with....clearly not your choice now. Hard pruning isn't a permanent solution but buys you time, they will reach the too tall for the site height again.

RE: Big rhodos -- can I prune way down?

All I can say is I had one beside my porch that outgrew its place so I decided not to fight it and cut it down to near ground level. Darned if it didn't grow back (just as beautiful as ever). The following year I cut back two more; this time I left about three feet of mostly wood..and they are filling in nicely, too. If I were designing the area now, I probably would again chose Rhods because though the do outgrow the area, I love them and love how they look along my porch. Really, within a season or two, they look good as new, and I'll get several years of nice blooms before I will need to ever do such a drastic cutting again, especially if I keep up with selective pruning of the plants to keep the size in check. I realize this seems pretty amateur-ish....but I plant my garden to suit ME....not the professionals. :=)

RE: Big rhodos -- can I prune way down?

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Tue, May 12, 09 at 6:31

In some situations they can be pruned into small, well behaved trees, rather than a butchered stump where you have to wait several years for recovery. Prune so you can see through the Rhododendron and still enjoy the blooms above. In front of a window the top can act as an awning.

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