How to Prune Rhododendron

If you have a rhododendron plant and want it to bloom correctly, you have to take care of it. While the plant may grow well in the wild with no supervision, any gardener will tell you that they respond even better to pruning. Regular pruning is important to maintain a good shape and for the flowers to bloom as they should. Like any other bush that you may have, pruning removes any dead parts to allow the plant to flourish better. This guide will help you know everything you need to know about cutting a rhododendron plant so you can grow a healthy bush.

Why should you prune your rhododendron?

Before you can prune any plant, it is essential to establish why you are doing it; otherwise, it would make no sense to do it. There are many reasons why you should prune your rhododendron, as shown below:

It’s basic maintenance

The main reason for pruning is to maintain the bush. Maintenance is vital since it allows the plant to form attractively. It ensures that you don’t have many stray branches that may make your flower unattractive. This will help you maintain a healthy plant without any unnecessary parts.

It increases flowers

One of the ways of pruning is when you cut off dead or old flowers. This is standard practice when dealing with rhododendron since it helps more buds to form. If you don’t remove dead flowers, they take up a lot of space and food from the plant. You don’t want this since the food of the plant could be used in generating new healthy flowers.

Revives and revitalizes the plant

It is unlikely for a rhododendron to die from being neglected, but nothing is wholly impossible. If you notice your plant is looking unhealthy and some parts are dying off, it is time for a prune. Remove all the wood that is not thriving, so it may start growing again. Getting rid of these parts allows the plant to revive itself, and it should start blooming soon.

Reduce size

Sometimes the rhododendron may grow with too many legs which makes the bush too big and unattractive. The extra legs may also take away food from the flowers; hence the plant doesn’t have as many flowers as you may desire. Pruning off the different parts is important since it makes it easier for the rhododendron to grow to your liking.

How to trim a Rhododendron

Remember that pruning a rhododendron is not as important as it is in other flowering plants. The plant can grow and rejuvenate itself without pruning, but it is good maintenance practice. There are different ways to trim your plant depending on what you want to achieve, as explained. For these pruning methods, you will need:

The maintenance prune

Many people who prune their rhododendron do so for maintenance purposes.  This is done to remove extra parts that may not serve any purpose other than making the plant large. To do this, you will need to get rid of old flowers by cutting them at the flower base. This is an essential step since it ensures that the plant uses much of its energy to prepare for the next bloom.

It is crucial you cut accurately cut just at the flower base so as not to snip the new bud. You can also do this by hand by grabbing the bottom and twisting it out. You need to be keen when doing it by hand since if you don’t get the whole part, you may not get the desired results.

The shaping prune

When you want to control your rhododendron’s shape, it is important to be keen on how you do it, so the outcome is as you intend it. You may want to change the shape for many reasons, such as to control how high it grows. It may also be to encourage the growth of more flowers. Note that you can only shape plants that are not very leggy. Due to the extra wood, it requires a different approach to do it correctly.

Shaping done to increase the number of wood growing from the central part of the plant requires you to be keen. You should check for one branch that is growing from another and cut it about quarter an inch from the main plant’s first bunch of leaves. Repeat this as needed until you remove all the different branches. It is almost impossible to avoid getting rid of new buds, so don’t worry about it.

The rejuvenation prune

If your plant has become quite leggy with old wood, then what you’ll need to do is rejuvenation pruning. It’s done by removing the extra branches on a large scale so it’s essential to be sure of this technique before starting.

One way of doing rejuvenation pruning is by cutting back the main branches of the plant. It is a drastic move that will see your plant lose most of its components and flowers. Ensure that when cutting, you do so at different heights, so it grows in a natural shape.

Another rejuvenating method is by cutting the entire plant to just about six inches off the earth. This is best done to very leggy plants since it guarantees the plant new branches and leaves. One thing that you should note is that this method doesn’t always succeed. In some cases, the plant may not grow, and in others, it may take many months to start growing again.

When to prune the rhododendron

Since pruning is not necessary for a rhododendron, when you prune is absolutely up to you. The only time it is required to snip the plant is if you notice any dying parts. This can either be flowers or stems that are looking unhealthy. It is essential to remove these parts so the plant can focus its energy on the growing areas.

If you notice any diseased parts, it is crucial to cut these off too. Remember to disinfect your tools when dealing with sick parts of the plant to avoid spreading the disease to healthier parts. Another time you should trim is when you notice the plant getting leggy. This is a negative thing since it means that the plant is spending a lot of its energy on the unnecessary parts. Carefully remove the extra stems to make your flower bush healthier.

What is the best time to prune a rhododendron?

There are many times when it is suitable to trim your rhododendron, so it depends on what works for you. The one time you should not cut is when the bush is flowering since you might snip a growing bud. One of the times when you should prune the plant is at the end of winter, just before spring. At this time, the flower is dormant, and it will benefit from shedding that extra weight, which may take a lot of its energy.

Another great time to prune is late in spring after the bush is done flowering. However, it would help if you were careful when you prune at this time to not cut any new buds. You can also trim some stems and flowers just before the first frost in the fall. This allows the plant to prepare well for the next bloom before it becomes dormant. Always check the new buds when pruning, so you don’t risk reducing the flowers in the coming year.

How do you trim rhododendrons after they bloom?

Once the flower has bloomed fully, you may choose to prune it to prepare for the following year’s bloom. You can trim off the spent flowers while being careful not to touch the new buds. This is important since it allows the plant to start getting ready for the next year’s growth. It also helps maintain a healthy bush without too many branches. It also helps the plant redirect its energy to creating more beneficial leaves for the remaining season.

Should I deadhead rhododendrons?

Deadheading means to cut off the spent flowers. It is essential to do this to the plant once it is done blooming since the dying flowers use up too much energy from the plant. Cutting off the flowers not only enhances how the bush looks but also helps it to conserve energy. This ensures that it can use up its food to grow the new buds; hence you get tremendous new growth.

Pruning your rhododendron plant is vital to ensure new growth and that it grows in an excellent shapely form. Depending on the method of pruning your plant, it is a good idea to do a test before going all the way. This is most important if you are doing it for rejuvenation purposes. However, for every other reason, the plant can easily grow back from pruning it. Ensure that even as you are maintaining your rhododendron, don’t overdo it since this can negatively affect the plant.