I have a handout from the American Rhododendron Society that
says the best time to prune rhodies and azaleas is in the spring,
just after flowering. Makes perfect sense to me, but the plants
aren't cooperating. :-)
By the time the current year's flowers are fading, the plants
are already forming buds (flower? leaves?) for next year. So
if I prune then, I'll end up removing new growth, and then
won't I have a barren plant for a year? But if I don't prune,
then I keep getting growth farther and farther out the branches,
leaving the centers of the plants increasingly empty. Any
I never prune them. Just dead head when I got the energy. But I do
prune in a way. I cut back to healthy wood killing borers in the
process with a focused intent.
I'd guess your mention of empty centers may be due to plants younger
plants less than 10 years.
Garden in shade zone 5 S Jersey USA
Neat place .. http://www.petersvalley.org /
On 07 Jun 2008 22:10:42 GMT, firstname.lastname@example.org (Patty Winter) wrote:
You only have two choices:
Prune and lose some next blooms, or
Don't prune and allow the plant to get larger.
Personally, it would depend on the location and I'd prefer to leave it
alone (not prune) and mulch the azalea. Azaleas and rhododendrons
often look just fine in their natural unpruned state.
That's what I was thinking: maybe prune and lose one year
of blooms, but have a healthier plant the following year.
Most of the azaleas are fine and bushy. One is a bit sparse in
the middle, but full enough on the outside to cover it up. The
rhodies aren't so full, so the bareness of the inside parts
shows quite evidently. Wouldn't that be a case where pruning
Depends on where you live, it may be too late this year. You should do
the pruning within days of the blooms dying. In my case, I don't
"prune" as such, but grab the limbs where I want to shorten them and
give them a sharp snap and just break them off. I have bushes full of
blooms every year doing it this way.
That is very strange. Usually, in early June, rhododendrons and azaleas
have just finished blooming and are opening up their foliage buds and
forming new growth of stems and leaves. The new leaves may look like
they are coming out of buds that are forming on the new stems. You
might be mistaking them for next years buds. Then, in mid summer, new
buds form on the ends of these new shoots and at the base of the new
leaves. Some of these buds are foliage buds and others are flower buds.
You usually have until early to mid summer to prune. Obviously the
closer after blooming is the safest.
The reasons for pruning healthy plants are two fold: 1) to contain or
reduce the size of the plant(s) and 2) to stimulate new growth. For the
latter to take place the plant(s) must have some sun and since yours
seem to bloom nicely, I would guess they get part sun.
Another good way to fill out the center of the plant(s) is to break off
the new foliage buds on the outer-most branches in the spring after the
flower buds swell up and begin to bloom. When the flower buds begin to
look like green golf balls, the foliage buds will be much smaller and
easy to spot. You can remove them by just twisting them sideways, sort
of like deadheading.
Deadheading is the removal of the spent flowers to prevent the formation
of seed pods and to remove any diseased material. In areas with petal
blight, which is a fungus that attacks flowers and makes them wilt
prematurely, the removal of spent flowers is very important. If
flowering is a problem, deadheading can improve the bud set for the next
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Visit my Rhododendron and Azalea web pages at:
Okay, your information matches what was on the rhodie society
handout, but I'm still confused. As you say, there are new leaves
coming out right now. But those aren't related to next year's
foliage and flower buds? I'm safe cutting below them, if they're
on the end of a stem and I want to trim back further?
Yes, they get some morning and afternoon sun, but not midday.
One of them didn't do much flowering this year, but I'm attributing
that to my not having pruned it properly in the past. The other one
right next to it bloomed fine this year. It's a younger plant, so
hasn't been "mistreated" for as long!
Oh, interesting. I hadn't heard of that technique before. Out of
curiosity, will that delay foliage growth for a year, or will the
plant immediately begin making foliage buds closer to the center
of the plant?
I've been doing that every year, breaking off the flower stems
at the place where they naturally break, kinda like asparagus. ;-)
Thank you very much for this information, Stephen. And also to
Tom for his suggestions.
In general, trees and woody shrubs that bloom only in the spring should
be pruned right after blooming. Of course, don't prune if fruit is
expected. And not every plant needs to be pruned, especially not
I prune my azaleas to renew them. This means pruning once every 3-4
years. If I leave a bare branch, several new shoots will form on that
branch. If I leave some foliage at the end of a branch, I remove the
tip in order to promot more branching.
Yesterday, I pruned my 'George Taber' azaleas. They form an irregular
hedge in front of my camellias. The azaleas had grown so tall and dense
that they hid the camellias. None of my other azaleas -- 'Alaska',
'Formosa', 'Inga', or 'Pride of Dorking' -- will be pruned this year.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
That makes me feel better, David. ;-) Perhaps I haven't been
neglecting the poor things as much as I thought. I'll prune
this year and see what happens. Even if things go wonky and
I don't get many flowers next year, 2010 should be great! :-)
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