Pruning Rhododendrons Updated : December 4, 2014 57 Comments Here is a video of me pruning rhododendrons Take a gander at these posts...Pruning Azalea BushesTree Pruning Tips and My 5-Year ExperimentPruning Rose BushesHydrangeas: When do I prune them? Why didn’t they flower?Trim Your Burning Bush WAY BACK!!
hi mike, very well done on the pruning . most people are afraid to lop down plants and shrubs for fear of damaging the plant , but as we are both aware they will fill out and become a full beautiful plant ready to sell. always look forward to seeing your great honest approach home videos.
Wonderful questions all – Would be nice to see some answers.
We have a Rhodie on each side of the entrance to our driveway. They are about two years-old now. One has a bit of protection from trees that shade it late in the afternoon and it is doing okay. The other gets MUCH more sun and after the snow melted this year it is shriveled and burnt.
In the summer I have to water it frequently too. If I can bring it back what should I do for winter protection. And is there anything I can do to help in the summer too? We are in Southwest NH. They were gorgeous when we planted them. We have several big rocks on each side of drive and a place in them that was pretty for planting them.
Candice, just keep in mind that the worst thing that can happen to a Rhododendron during the growing season is the roots being too wet. You’d be amazed at how well they do in dry soil. And they really, really struggle in damp soil. Winter protection? The best winter protection is to send them into the winter healthy and happy.
Rhododendrons are notoriously labeled shade loving plants, but they will do well in full sun in zones 4 through 6 for sure. No fertilizer. Do not fertilize them. Rotted cow manure (bagged) would make they happy.
I can see pruning very small rhodos like this (or other flowering shrubs), but with my very old, giant ones, I’m dead set against lopping them. They have been drastically cut by the previous owner and then by a harsh winter (I think it was ’08) and did rebound. But I prefer inspecting them for borers and fungus, which is MUCH easier if the branches are not too dense. Don’t worry if they’re thin on the inside: you’ll get plenty of blooms if you feed them, mulch them and remove the blooms.
Also, having the branches TOO low makes it easier for them to eventually touch the ground and pick up insects and get invasive vines around them (such as bindweed).
To me, there’s nothing more magical than strolling through the tunnels in a high, Rhododendron forest! They look very oriental and mysterious.
I have the dilemma of not knowing how to trim a Cecile Bruner climbing rose. I live at the Oregon Coast and it is in a sheltered location along a garage wall. Thank you.
rose souza says
Mike-I got a real xmas surprise viewing your new videos instructing us avid gardeners on pruning. Bless you. I won’t be out in the rain but can’t wait to get outdoors with my pruners to improve my landscaping skills now that you have shared your instructions and knowledge. I’ve been clipping too little at the tops and not getting the bushiness as expected. Haven’t had luck with propagating forsynthias but guess it was the wrong time of year. Wish me luck. Have a great 2012 and keep creating those videos!
It’s PJM Rhododendrons and they are hardy in the North, I think to zone 3, One of the only Rhododendrons for Wisconsin and Minnesota
This is not about rhododendrons, but I live in a coop with all different kinds of people. They were doing maintenance on large trees, and one of the tenants asked them to cut a beautiful azalea bush right down to the ground. They did, thinking it would not be there anymore. In the spring, I saw a blaze of color and I could not believe it. I had to walk closer to it to see that this azalea was alive, strong and growing. How wonderful nature is.
Allen W. says
Mike: Great class! Can’t wait to see them in the spring. I’ve have a question about Rhododendrons, I have one that blooms red and it does not put out alot of foliage. I have another one it blooms Pink,when it blooms
bothe Rhodo’s we have had for 25-30 years. My question is the pink one puts out lots and lots of foliage but no blooms? in the past years i have cut it way back after the blooming period, i have left it alone to see that responce? No blooms no buds. This is it’s last year maybe, before i start over with a new shrub. Do you or any of your listeners have any advice for me. Mike i think what you are doing is Great! i have been in this field for over 25 years, High detail pruning is what i enjoy the most. Boxwoods and Japanese Maples, Thank You for your time!
This is off topic, but I’d sure like to hear what you think of this.
My peach trees had some terrible branch loss last spring. Looked like a bore got the lower branches on eight of my peach trees. I have never sprayed them, but always treat the base of the trunk at ground level and a little lower for the bore w/o fail!
The top third of all the branches on each tree were beautiful and some of the peaches were marked with wound-like spots. I got many nice peaches though.
I was afraid I was losing all of my trees. If they pull through this spring, what should I be doing to prevent this from happening again? I did spray the whole tree and also treated the trunk in the usual way.
Linda Garner says
My back hurts just watching you do this, Mike!
Can azaleas be whacked back like you did to the rhododendrons? Is this the time of year to do it?
just bought an old bungalow in south louisiana that has some sad looking boxwoods lining the walkway. can i prune them down? when? how much? they are probably about 3 feet tall with sparse growth…..or should i just replace them?
Can I wack my azaleas the same way you are doing the rhodos?
David Green says
yes ANOTHER GREAT VIDEO i LIVE IN NORTH ALABAMA HAVE TROUBLE GROWING RODENDRONS HAVE ALOT OF CLAY HAVE PUT SOIL WITH ORGANTIC MATERIALS.THEY DIE BUT i LIKE YOU VIDOES JUST PUTS THINGS IN SMIPLE TERMS AND YOU FACTS BY YOUR EXPERIENCE IS MUCH BETTER THAN READING LONG BOOKS
I thought they were called PJM’s. Pinging is not mentioned in the video, but it is mentioned that pinging is not allowed in the writing just below the video. I don’t know what pinging is. I think that you can prune back mature rhodos because someone from my neighborhood had bad damage a couple of years ago in the dry weather to their plants which must have been 10-12 feet high. They cut them way back and now they are doing fine.
Some of my hydrangeas die back and I have a few lace tops near a fence that have never been cut back. They are about 4 1/2 feet high at this point. Can I cut them back at this stage?
Thanks for reassuring me that I can’t mess up my plants with heavy pruning. I love these short videos and all your adivce.. keep up the good work….Merry Christmas to you and yours
Just wondering if this would be appropriate to do on older rhodos in zone 4. (Temps are now in the mid to low 30s). Or would it be better to wait til late winter/early spring.
Love your videos Mike. Very Informative! You ought to give Black Friday discouts to your loyal followers, maybe then I can afford to buy your material!!
Jeanne Holbrook says
Hey Mike, It is always fund to watch you ‘wack’ at plants. I too have to go back and prune some rhodos at my old house. Can you really wack down mature rhodos and still get life next year? Also, can you use the wacked pieces for hardwood cuttings now? I have not been very lucky with softwood cuttings on rhodos! May try some hardwood and see what happens. At least I can polay with the old shrubs. I have pale pink, regular lavendar and red.
Joel dinoff says
I trimmed azalias 2 weeks ago. Some of them are starting to yellow. Should I feed them with some fertilixer and water them or just wait and watch?
Mitch Bennett says
Mike, if a few more years you will not be able to bend over and work like that because of back, knees, and hips. Then you will be like me and gardening will not be so much fun. but you will keep doing what you can. I can’t even give away some of the things I already have like Iris. I have lost my asparagus and canna lillies along with most of my blueberries because of not being able to keep them watered during dry seasons. I look for ways to garden that will not require me to bend over. Keep it up.
I thought it was best to prune after flowering. I live in the northeast. My new plants grew all summer, is it ok to prune them now (in December?)
Thanks for the video!
Can you take the pieces that were cut off and root them also?
Sorry about the typo. I ment to say Mike vs Mile and for the great video.
Thank Mile forthe great video. I love the way you just whack them down. I pruned my lemon tree today. It needed it.
I guess that I have not heard or thought of pruning rhodies this time of year (?) Mike-how about sticking the cuttings and locate in the greenhouse for propagation?
Esther Hart says
Hi Mike, I have transferred my Hibiscus to pots to bring them in since they are a tropical plant.Should I also prune them back a bit? I hate to lose them as they are so pretty, however they do take up a lot of space inside. Waiting for an answer. Thanks, Esther
I would love to hear the answer to this too. I also have a tropical hibiscus that I place outside for the summer and bring in over winter. It has a lot of leaf and flowers almost non-stop from the tips of the branches. It has very little leaf inside.
Mike, I’m working a property for a client, their rhodos are huge, can I cut them down quite a bit, and is there a rule about what to take out, ie: size of limbs like there is with lilacs? Any info will be appreciated. Thanks.
I just love to see you whack at plants to prune them. I’m so afraid if I do it wrong I won’t have a plant. Keep it up!
PGM’s are a type of Rhododendrons, Phil. They are a hybred that grow to between 3 feet high/wide to 6 feet high/wide. They are tough and tolerate partial shade. Flowers are in a pink to lavendar shade. Mike is right, if you don’t prune they get leggy. I love my PGM’s. I didn’t understand your comment about pinging…I didn’t hear that in the video.
I love how you are so crazy.
I’ve also learned a great deal from watching your videos.
You’re the best!
gaylee mchugh says
hi mike, i dug uo some wild rhododendrens in the woods a few years ago and planted them in my yard. they are just now coming into it this year with a few flowers. but one is tall(about 4 feet) with no branches on the bottom. can i cut that back without killing it or is it to late? the others seem fine to me. between two and three feet, should i trim those.. and if i do how long do i have to wait before they get flowers? the two foot ones haven’t even started flowering yet. i get all of my plants in the woods and around old foundations and on dirt roads. you would be surprised at the varity! i even transplanted lady slippers from our woods and they doubled every year. anyway i love your newsletter, its wonderful! and maybe someday i’ll have the money to actually buyu something from you! have a great day and i anxiously await your response. bless you and thankyou, gaylee
Becky Lott says
Question about other flowering bushes- I a have a large varigated Carol Mackie Daphne- Beautiful and so fragrant…but is getting large( 5′ X 4′) in my perrenial bed…can it be safely trimmed at this time of the year also? I am in Zone 5.
Any help would be apprecitated.
I had several PGM rhodi’s when I lived in TN. I knew next to nothing about them prior to their being planted. They grew really fast in soii they were in. I did not want them to grow tall, so kept nipping off the new growth.
I live 1 mile from the Gulf of Mexico now in NW Florida. I recently purchased about a dozen azalias that are in 2–3 gallon pots and are a lanky 4-5 feet tall. After watching this video, I am going take them down about 30% or so, maybe a little more depending on the structure of each plant.
I look forward to your e-mailings, Mike. Thank you for sharing the great information.
I brought a small rhodo into the house to over-winter (in Minnesota). It is now in full bloom after doing poorly all summer! What is the best time to prune for summer bloom?
John Harrison says
I just watched your pruning video and I loved it. I tell my neighbors all the time they need to prune low to get growth.
I just potted some Red Oaks and I was wondering when would it be the best time to put them in the ground(central Texas)many rocks and dry soil? We can’t dig to deep here because of the rock shell.
I also have some seeds of various yard plants mostly zeroscape type. When is it a good time to put them in the ground/pots?I am a nut for collecting seeds and then forgetting what they were named. I know I have Yucca. Anything you can do to help me other than telling me to write them down the next time,LOL.
I am not a gardener but I do like to play around in my back yard with potting a few plants and see what they will do. I have had very good success with cactus of different varieties. I don’t know what variety?
If you are interested in them I could send you a picture.
Thank you for your time I really like your website.
PJM’s are a hearty, widely grown variety of rhododendrons named for the the nurseryman Peter J. Mezzit.
Bill Barnard says
Can this be done with azaleas also?
Hi Mike, thank you for the work you do, you are a godsend. My problem, how do I prune a Pinky Winky and Oak Leaf Hydrangeas? they are a couple of years along and becoming very leggy. I get lovely blooms on my Pinky Winky, but not so many on the Oak Leaf. I know these are different types and have to be treated differently. Please help, no- one I ask knows. Thank you in advance. I am in CT. Pinky.
I agree with Phil’s question. What’s a PJM?
Thanks, now I won’t be afraid to trim my rhody’s
Donna Marie Snead says
Should I cut back my azaleas the same way if I failed to trim them after they bloomed? Now or in the spring?
Donna Marie Snead
Cindy Conley says
What in the world are ya doin makin a vidieo out in the rain…lol
I have rhodos that are about 5′ tall growing under our deck. They need pruning … how do I prune these bigger plants?
Bout made my heart stop when you started with the pruners! I know its necessary but it always breaks my heart! I’ve never tried it, have 4 year old Rhododendrons and they’ve NEVER bloomed!! Probably too much shade but I’m going to try trimming and moving. Wish me luck! LOVE your newsletters, thank you and keep em coming.
I live in florida. If I prune my azelaes now, I’m afraid I won’t have any blooms come spring. Any comment?
Should I do this to my Hydrangias
Clara Dugas says
Thanks Mike. I’ve been babying a rhodo that I transplanted from my son’s yard ( He is no gardener!!). The rhodo three years ago was sick looking.
I live in Nova Scotia so in the winter the base of the plant is well covered with pine needles. In the spring I remove the pine needles and add compost from my own compost pile. Each spring buds come out and I wait patiently for blossoms!
No way! All it produces are new leaves. It looks great but it’s only GREEN!!
I will go out there today and do some pruning like you show so very well.
By the way, Mike, I love your videos. It’s like being with a friend who cares about what you care about!
Mary Crowder says
Is it fisible to trim older Rod. this time of year.
Does this also apply to Mountain Laurel?
I love your simplistic approach to gardening, and your taking the time to explain why you do what you do.
Thanks for taking the time to make the video IN THE RAIN!!
Phil, I think that was Japanese Maple? If I am right, maybe Mike will give me a “kudos” Great video, Mike! Keep them coming!
What are pgm’s that you “smacked down” ???? Huh ??
I don’t know what pinging is anyway.
Thanks for vid.
Ric Ross says
First of all, let me thank you for all these videos that you do. I find all of them very helpful.
I must admit though that I almost spit my coffee all over my keyboard when you started whacking away at all those rhododendrons. But now I can hardly wait till you show us the “after” results when they have grown out again. I’m sure they will all be beautiful and full plants. You do seem to get great results with everything you do. I appreciate all your helpful information. Thank you so much.
Joyce Griffin says
I always wondered about pruning my Rhoddie. I would like to keep it small, so tomorrow I am going to do a little pruning without fear I am going to kill it. Obviously I don’t trust myself, so I won’t trim like you did.
Yep, ,you’re crazy. Keep up the good work!