rhododendron renovation

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Freeranger
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rhododendron renovation

Post by Freeranger »

My rhododendron is underneath a tree, and is growing in a ring rather than a ball. Inside, it's quite twiggy with the growth more at the ends of its branches.
I'm assuming it's growing leggy looking for light, and the concentration of weight at the ends is pulling the branches downwards.
So, I can thin out the tree above to let in more light, and I can layer the lower branches while they're down there to make more shrubs, but what about the rhodi itself? I'm thinking leave it til its flowered then trim it hard back, to grow again from the centre.
Is this the right way to go?
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lancashire lass
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Re: rhododendron renovation

Post by lancashire lass »

Freeranger wrote:I'm thinking leave it til its flowered then trim it hard back, to grow again from the centre.


If I recall, rhododendrons are very hardy so I think that would be my call too. Thought I'd google though just to be on the safe side - it's an American site but I'd imagine the advice is the same: The American Rhododendron Society It's quite a detailed page about various reasons for pruning - I think this paragraph is what you might be looking for:

Pruning to rejuvenate. Rhododendrons that have outgrown their site or have become tall, ungainly, and sparse of bloom can be rejuvenated by judicious pruning, preferably in early spring. Don't attempt to do it all at once. The plant likely will survive one-shot surgery, even make a strong recovery, but it is no way to treat an old friend. It is better to spread the rehabilitation over 2 or 3 years. Each year cut back some of the heavy branches to latent buds. Let the light in to encourage new shoots to form. Plants that have deteriorated in the top should be cut back and rejuvenated with new growth originating low on the bole. Prune with the dual objective of retaining the mature structure of the rhododendron and of improving its vigor and capacity to bloom.
Freeranger
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Re: rhododendron renovation

Post by Freeranger »

Interesting, thanks LL.
When it says to prune back to a latent bud, does that mean the last obvious signs of growth, or to a gnarly bit on the twig that looks like it should have had growth but didn't? If it means to the losog then the individual branches are pom-pom shaped with growth at the end of a stick, and I'm not sure that would gain much.
I did a bit of work a couple of weeks ago on a shrub (?) that had mostly toppled in the wind, so in a kill or cure way I was quite tough with it. There's a surprising amount of new growth, from places I hadn't identified as obvious leaf nodes.
I guess I can try the same approach with just some of the old rhodi friend's topmost bits and see what happens.
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lancashire lass
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Re: rhododendron renovation

Post by lancashire lass »

Freeranger wrote:or to a gnarly bit on the twig that looks like it should have had growth but didn't?


I think it means the gnarly bit - sometimes where a leaf had been growing before it dropped off (I'm thinking perhaps of deciduous trees when leaves fall off in autumn but unsure of evergreens) Trees and shrubs generally grow from the tip (it's where the growth hormones are sited) but when you cut that off, hormones then move to other parts of a branch. The same principle as my overgrown privet hedge - it kept getting taller but not bushy. So with a savage trim, little leaf buds have now appeared along the remaining branches - the trick to ensuring it bushes up is to keep trimming the top and forcing new leaf growth along the branches.
Freeranger
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Re: rhododendron renovation

Post by Freeranger »

Thank you for that - I did tell you in my diary that I don't know what I'm doing!
I have a lot to learn,but have also got some plants that are really quite poorly and I want to help rather than hinder.
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Mo
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Re: rhododendron renovation

Post by Mo »

Is it a 'new-to-you' garden?
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Freeranger
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Re: rhododendron renovation

Post by Freeranger »

Not exactly, Mo, but we've been working on the house rather than the outside spaces, and I also work away a lot - this is the first time I've really properly observed the garden bits. I did for the first year or two plant up the veggie garden, but because of the above and my inexperience with the conditions, it didn't do very well.
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