Expert Opinion: Can You Prune Rhododendron in Fall? When? How to Prepare It for Winter?
I have two rhododendrons on both sides of the entrance to my house that have grown quite tall and wide this summer. It’s fall and so I want to prune them and take care of them before winter. But can you prune rhododendron in fall? When exactly and how to do it? How to prepare your rhododendron for winter?
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So, Can You Prune Rhododendron in Fall?
I love rhododendrons! I love their green foliage and their beautiful, lush blooms in purple, pink and white! However, when the time came to prune them, I didn’t know exactly when and how to do it. Knowing that this was a subject that required a little more experience than I had, I immediately asked my grandmother for help. It’s precisely from her that I get my love for these shrubs that she has had in her garden for over 30 years!
So, can you prune rhododendron in fall? According to my grandmother, these evergreens can be pruned at almost any time without any negative impact on their health and development. In spring and early summer, after flowering, this shrub can be pruned to give it a better shape. And before flowering, in fall and spring, it can be pruned severely if its branches have become too thick.
When Is the Best Time to Prune This Shrub?
As mentioned earlier in the article, rhododendron pruning can be done at any time without having a negative impact on its health and development. And although you can prune rhododendron in fall, the best time to do so is a few weeks after it has finished blooming. This way the plant will have enough time to prepare its buds for next year.
However, if you plan to prune the plant severely, the best time to do so is late winter and early spring, before the growing season. The only thing you need to bear in mind when pruning rhododendrons is the temperature: it’s best to avoid pruning during extreme heat in summer, or when it’s too cold in winter.
How to Prune Rhododendrons in Fall?
Rhododendron is often pruned in fall to reduce its height and size, which is also what I want to do with my two shrubs, as well as to improve its health and encourage blooming. Whether you’re pruning severely or simply removing spent flowers, it’s essential to start by taking a good look at your plant. Then, remove any branches that appear diseased or damaged, or those that have grown too much, using disinfected, sharp pruning shears. Try to shorten them back to a cluster of green leaves after flowering to prevent the plant from getting too big.
Also read: Rhododendron Getting Yellow Leaves in Fall: 3 Possible Causes
It’s important to know that a large proportion of plants are “programmed” to a certain, well-defined size and may react by sprouting aggressively if you cut off more than 20% of their size in one go. However, if it’s an old shrub that needs to be rejuvenated, you may proceed with a severe pruning. However, it’s best to do this at the end of winter, in February or March.
If you have decided to prune rhododendron in fall, don’t forget to take the necessary care afterwards. Use peat-free compost or dry leaves as mulch. For a potted rhododendron, use fresh compost and water with rainwater.
How to Care for Rhododendrons before Winter?
After having given you the answer to the question: “Can we prune rhododendron in fall?”, now is the time to see how to take care of it before winter:
- First of all, it is very important to water your plant properly, as it often dries out during winter. Water regularly in fall and especially when there is not much rain.
- Add mulch to help retain moisture in the soil and control weeds. Use dry leaves, pine eels or even wood shavings or straw. It will also make the soil more acidic.
- Wintering rhododendron: Does rhododendron fear the cold? Yes, if your plant is located in an area that is not sheltered from the wind, it will benefit from a little protection in winter. Use burlap to cover your rhododendron.
Attention! Avoid fertilizing rhododendron before winter, as this can result in weak, late growth in the new season.