Rhododendrons put on a great flower display this season. Many varieties are past peak now and new growth is starting to appear!
Every week we talk of things that need to be done in the garden so it is nice every once in awhile to talk of things that do not have to be done. Old rhododendron flowers do not have to be removed. Some gardeners painstakingly peel off the old flowers and while aesthetically pleasing this is not necessary for the health or growth of the plant. The old flowers will dry and new growth will cover the plant after a couple of weeks.
This is the time to prune them however for height and shape control. Stem by stem cutting with hand pruners will result in a natural looking shape so avoid using shears whenever possible. Rhododendron that have grown too large in front of windows can be cut low now for rejuvenation pruning. This involves cutting the woody stem a few feet above the ground resulting in a stumpy looking plant for a season or two.
Sometimes rhododendron become much too wide. Removing the bottom branches to a height of three or four feet solves this problem and exposes the interesting understory branching below.