Your thoughts regarding my Rhodie

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Good Morning!

My husband and I purchased our first home 3 years ago and their were 4 rhodies in the front yard at the base of the house. We didn't know what they were for the first year (I'd never seen a rhodie before) and they weren't doing very well. Most likely from water deficiency. Once I saw the first flower I was hooked and I've been trying desperately to save them ever since. One of the four didn't survive the first winter. The other three are alive and doing better but definitely not great.

Most of the foliage is at the top of the plant but nothing in the middle or bottom. A local garden store employee had suggested that after they're finished blooming I should remove all the buds from the leaf clusters so that it wouldn't continue to grow upward, and maybe it would focus it's energy filling in the bare spots. Is that correct? I'm trying not to do any more damage than I have already done.

I water my pretty rhodies much more often and it seems to paying off as this is the first year that we've gotten more than 2 flowers. From what I've read here it looks like they may have suffered winter burn this past season, so I know to cover them this coming winter to avoid that in the future.

2 of my three rhodies are doing fairly well... the third one is doing better than it was, but it looks so sad.... any additional tips and suggestions would be most appreciated. I know some rhodies have different needs, but having no idea what 'type' of rhodie this is, I haven't had much luck finding any specific information.

This picture is of one of the healthier of the 3 but it was taken a few weeks ago before the started to bloom. But it shows the lack of foliage on the lower portion.

Thumbnail by StressedTek
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I'll let someone else advise you on pruning, in general if you want to stimulate bushier growth lower down on a shrub you need to cut it back to the point where you want the new sprouts, but I'm not sure if rhodies react well to severe pruning like that or not. One other thing I would suggest is to check the pH of your soil--the soil near a house's foundation can often tend to be somewhat on the alkaline side because the cement in the foundation leaches lime into the soil. Rhodies prefer things somewhat on the acidic side, so you may make them happier by amending the soil to make it more acid.

Cincinnati, OH

There is a lot of construction fill (broken concrete, pipe, wood) near the buildings here. With the exception of one Deciduous Azalea, every Rhody next a building has been moved or died. You may need coperas a.k.a. iron sulphate if you soil is neutral or alkaline. Never use aluminum sulfate near any member of the heath family (Ericaceae).
There are few species of Rhododendron that are tolerant of limestone/concrete. Some are now being grafted onto INKARHO rootstocks developed for that purpose.

Oakland, OR(Zone 8a)

Some of the cultivars grow rather lanky as they get older and have to be cut back and forced to grow new shoots. One of the worst cultivars for getting lanky is "Sappo". I have had to cut mine back to some stubs several times. I don't cut all the stems back at the same time - about 13 of them at a time. The bush now looks better and flowers better. Oh, yes, and some of the cultivars appear to flower well in alternate years, especially some of the older ones. Dotti

Oakland, OR(Zone 8a)

Some of the cultivars grow rather lanky as they get older and have to be cut back and forced to grow new shoots. One of the worst cultivars for getting lanky is "Sappo". I have had to cut mine back to some stubs several times. I don't cut all the stems back at the same time - about 13 of them at a time. The bush now looks better and flowers better. Oh, yes, and some of the cultivars appear to flower well in alternate years, especially some of the older ones. Dotti

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Thanks so much for the advice and information. I'm going to test the PH in the soil and see if that's a problem. and I think I'll cut a few of the lanky branches back and see what happens. This place is amazing! So many people with so much great information!

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Although I haven't been able to be here for a month or so, I am happy to report that my rhodies appear to be doing much better these days. They're still showing some brown spots on some of the leaves, but they look much better than they did before.... I'll post pictures of them in their respective posts so that you can see the 'before' and 'after'

Christy

Thumbnail by StressedTek
Caldwell, NJ(Zone 6a)

The problem with most rhododendrons in the areas of our country which have a high "PH" is that they can't use the nutrients they need because of the high PH. Try replanting them with great drainage and a soilmix that has a lot of Peat mixed in. You should really have a Soil test from your county agricultural agent to determine the acidity of the soil and ammend it according to its recommendations

Malvern, PA(Zone 7a)

Also, many cultivars will look "ratty" in the spring before new growth, especially if it's a hard winter. Sometimes they'll look totally dead after a bad winter (like last one on the east coast), but will come back and leaf out.

Right now, those look pretty happy, so maybe wait and see. Be careful about over-watering - that *can* kill them or promote "root rot" (a fungal disease). I wouldn't water (at all) unless rain is less than around 1/2" a week, and even then only if they show heat/water-stress signs (leaves drooping - not at midday, but still drooping the next morning).

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

arfitz, thanks for the suggestion regarding replanting. It's something I had been thinking about, but I wasn't sure they would survive the replanting. I'll be sure to give that option some more thought.

and jesup thanks for the information about watering! I'm never sure how often to water. I have a feeling they have gotten more water than needed in the past. I'll be sure to pay more attention!

thanks again!

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