So let’s talk about rhododendrons and azaleas. This will be a multipart discussion, I can just tell… 😉 But what we’re going to talk about today is pruning these two popular shrubs.
Azaleas are a lot easier. Prune right after they’re finished blooming in late spring. You can prune them like specimen plants where you’re carefully sticking with the natural shape. Unlike rhodies, though, if you want to shear them like a hedge, then get out the hedge trimmers and go to town, as my grandma always used to say. Be forewarned, though, that if you choose this option, you’re kind of stuck with a hedge from then on.
Rhodies, OTOH… oh, those rhodies, such divas they are. NEVER try to hedge-ify these or you will just have a disaster on their hands. We are coming up on the ONE time of year when it’s recommended to prune them, too. Because rhodies form next year’s buds immediately after this year’s flowers are done, you have a very short window. Basically, you have to stand there, pruners in hand, and wait for those flowers to fall off. Then run run RUN towards your rhodies, not a second to spare, and prune them down very, very carefully. That’s going to be another post.
The only time you want to handle rhodies in any other way is when you have a specimen that’s a complete leggy mess and has gotten totally out of hand. Then, you can actually give it the old rosebush treatment in the winter and whack it down to about two feet off the ground. It will be a couple of years before you really see any flowers again, but sometimes it’s the only thing you can do to save a miserable mess of a rhodie.
Next time: we’ll talk about some specific techniques for rhodie pruning.