Posted by Editor | Posted in hedge | Posted on 06-01-2011
Proper pruning of Rhododendrons
Today I would like to cover the proper procedure for pruning Rhododendrons. June, right after blooming time, is the perfect time to prune and dead head Rhododendrons
I have to say, that one of my biggest pet peeves is observing general landscapers and home owners attempting to control the growth of rhododendrons.
Commonly I see landscapers and home owners drag out their hedge trimmers and yards of extension chords and ladders to take on the over grown plants that seem to grow to heights that hide windows and otherwise have out grown their respective place in the landscape.
From the on start, the plant should probably not have been planted where it is, or another variety of lower growth should have been substituted in the first place.
Never the less, I’m not here to speak of proper plant selection, though important, but instead how to manage a plant that has grown to heights undesirable.
Usually when people hire a general landscaper to trim shrubs and hedges, they rely upon local advertisements to find someone, they believe will do the proper job in trimming and cleanup afterward, however what I usually see is someone who sets to trimming using the common electric hedge trimmers and off they go to general grooming of all plants, sheering and planing to a smooth butterball shape.
This my friends is not the proper way to go about pruning.
Some plants require grooming, such as yews, boxwood, little leaf holly and common privet, however plants such as rhododendron, azalea, and lilacs, require a different approach to proper pruning, which I call selective pruning.
Selective pruning entails selecting the high points of a plants growth and removing it to bring the plant back into a manageable shape or form.
Rhododendrons and Azaleas in particular should be pruned by locating the highest branches and following the branch to is origin within the plant and clipping it clean at that point, thus lowering that particular point, and continued throughout the plant until it is lowered in size and shaped properly.
Grooming Rhododendrons with hedge sheers will not only cause the plant to become unsightly, but will remove most of the next years flower buds. This you obviously don’t want. I am often times asked “Why don’t my rhododendrons bloom each year”. well this is the primary reason.
Rhododendrons are one of my favorite plants in the landscape and if grown and maintained properly will reward you with some of the most beautiful display of flowering one could ever imagine each spring.
Keep in mind that broken branches, faded flowers, and high points are what you should look for each year right after blooming has completed its display of color for the season.
Dead heading is another important factor to healthy and a thriving plant.
Dead heading is quite easy to do, by locating the faded flower and grasping it where it connects to the branch, taking a firm hold between the thumb and the forefinger and snapping it clean to remove it. Be extra careful not to remove the two little axillary buds along side of the faded bloom as this is the new growth for this season, and which will form flower buds for next year.
Considering the task at hand, it is well worth pruning Rhododendrons to mange height as well as allowing the plant a chance of survival. Rhododendrons are some of the finest of over 6,000 species in existence throughout the world. Common to the Himalaya’s these plants are astounding specimens in the landscape and accentuate all other plants growing within their gardens. Please take time to consider the importance of proper pruning and don’t rely upon general landscapers to do the job for you. Seek out a true professional horticulturist to do the job or at least oversee the job in progress. You will be much happier with the results. I am including some photos as examples of proper techniques to use when pruning… Happy gardening..
Chet Stentiford… Your humble Horticulturist.
Chet Stentiford – Horticulturist & Consultant with over 30 years experience designing award winning gardens of distinction.