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pruning rhodies; chinoides not blooming

Vienna, WV

I'm in zone 6b in West Virginia, and 2 years ago planted 6 rhododendron chinoides on the front of my house (northwest). I have problems with lacebugs on one that gets a little more sun, but basically they are healthy. However, they haven't bloomed EVER! Any ideas as to why? This was listed as an "easy to grow" rhodie in Tracy diSabato-Aust's book, so I'm feeling slightly embarassed.
Also, I have a Yaku Prince rhodie that was in a spot with too much sun, and lost some branches before I transplanted and saved it. The problem is that the habitus of the shrub is now very stringy/lanky due to lost leaves/branches. If I prune it hard, now that it is doing well, will it come back nicely like an old azalea, or will it croak? Any input appreciated....

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Bloomage problem:

* are the plants producing flower buds?
* if so, are the blooms browsing or are they being eaten by squirrels/etc?

Pruning question:

* You can cut back hard and the plant would still recover. However, hard pruning is best left for times when the plant is dormant (note: you would loose next spring's blooms though).

* With the larger leaved rhododendrons like Yaku Prince, prune just above growth joints (a visible point where the plant starts growth each year). Prune above this point because that is where the dormant growth buds are; there are no dormant growth buds between growth joints.

Vienna, WV

No, the plants aren't producing flower buds, though they are growing nicely!! I thought one of them might have 2 or 3 buds, but they aren't doing anything yet....Thanks for the pruning advice; will probably think about the best way to handle it in the fall.
I just saw some beautiful chionoides rhodies at a local nursey blooming away--their buds didn't look like anything I have on my plants....

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Do you prune your chionoides rhodies? Pruning after they have set flower buds will cause you not to have any bloomage in spring since you end up pruning away the future flowers.

Failure to set buds can also happen for a host of other reasons. For example:

* planted in dense shade
* Squirrels and deer are eating the flower buds
* Moisture problem after the plant has developed flower buds. This will result in aborted buds so, in places where the ground does not freeze, some moisture is still needed (perhaps one watering every week or one watering every two weeks).
* planted out of zone (the weather is too cold for the flower buds and they dry out or freeze during winter)

Do any of those sound as possible reasons for lack of blooms in your case?

Vienna, WV

Not really...I spray lots of Liquid Fence around, so don't get too much nibbling. I was going to do a soil analysis, thinking maybe it's low of whatever that middle number is in fertilizer that causes things to bloom. I have them in a variety of exposures, from bright shade to a half day of full sun. Usually in WV it's pretty moist, but I'll pay extra attention to watering them this winter. I've never pruned them. The tag says they should be fine in this zone, and several nurseries around here stock them. I like most everything about them except the lack of bloom....thanks much for your thoughts, though!!!

Victoria BC, Canada

Hi. I have a deep pink rhodo that is large and just finishing its bloom for this year. It looks ancient. The wood is dry and brittle looking and the leaves are unattractive--spotty and browning on the edges. The bush gave a beautiful bloom, but is too large for the area and it almost hides a window. Can I cut the branches back and make it smaller. I have read that I can do this right after the bloom period, but I'm nervous and I'm new to gardening. I would appreciate some advise.

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Yes, that would be the best and safest time if you still wish to get blooms next year. Pruning after mid-summer or so can cut off next year's blooms. The only problem with pruning now is that we are in the summer season now so please keep an eye on soil moisture. Pruning while it is dormant in winter is also good as it minimizes the shock to the system but you end up sacrificing next year's blooms.

With small leaf rhododendrons, you can prune anywhere along the stems because they have dormant growth buds all over the stem. With large leaf rhododendrons, you can prune above a growth joint, which is where their dormant growth buds are located.

Holland, OH(Zone 5b)

Here is a Yaku Prince that gets a lot of sun, actually more in winter than in the summer. In the summer it gets high shade from oaks until about 2:00 then full sun from then on. In the winter it gets considerabley more sun as the oak has lost it leaves. It is about 12 years old. Started out in a one gallon pot. In this zone it is one tough rhody.

This message was edited Jun 25, 2008 1:25 PM

Thumbnail by snapple45
Holland, OH(Zone 5b)

This is the Yaku Prince just finishing out. The red azalea in front is Girard's Crimson. That's about 15 yrs. old and 11-1/2 ft wide. Together they make for quite a show. Some sun, as luis_pr pointed out, is absolutely necessary for a good bud set. I'm all eyes/ears as to the pruning of the rhody. The time has come either to work with pruning the Yaku Prince or moving the goldfish pond and the deck out of its way.

Thumbnail by snapple45
Vienna, WV

Wow! Your Yaku Prince is gorgeous! Mine totally tried to croak when I had it in more sun, but I'm hotter than you (6b). One of my chinoides just had 2 small blooms, way later than any other rhodies in the area. They are so confused....maybe next year. Hard to believe my little Yakus will get that big eventually--I see your problem with the pond. Thanks much for pruning advice, luis_pr....

Holland, OH(Zone 5b)

Finding the right mix of shade and sun can be challenging. I have to confess that the the siteing of Yaku (and the Girard's Crimson) was more luck than skill. I have a pink rhody (Scintillation) planted in total shade and it just does not flower well at all. Somehow you have to find the right balance. I'm still working on it.

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