Do you deadhead rhododendrons?

Carol Klein explains the importance of judicious pruning

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Deadheading prevents the rhododendron flowers from doing to seed. Deadheading is the simplest form of pruning, it will encourage your rhododendrons to put their energy towards new growth as opposed to producing seed. But, is this necessary to ensure your flowers bloom next year

If you forget to deadhead your rhodys don’t worry, your plant will continue to produce about the same amount of flowers next year as it did this year. 

But, if you want to produce more flowers deadheading will help you to achieve this. 

Deadheading will encourage your plant to increase its branching and this will normally mean more blooms. 

How do you deadhead rhododendrons? 

Deadheading plants is when you remove the flowers from plants when they are past their best. 

This is done to keep the plants looking attractive and to encourage more blooms. 

It is easy to deadhead your rhododendrons, simply snap off or cut the top of the stalk which supports the flower.

You should snap off your flowers just above where the leaves start on the stem. 

As more established rhododendrons can have strong woody stems you may need to use secateurs or a knife to remove them. 

When should you deadhead rhododendrons?

When the petals of the flowers wilt or fade you should start to deadhead your rhododendrons. 

But, rhododendrons do not have to be deadheaded every year. 

If you want to encourage more blooms then it is a good idea to deadhead annually. 

However, rhododendrons can grow to huge heights, the most established plants can grow up to 200cm. 

Whilst this makes for a beautiful sea of colour, this plant can dominate smaller spaces. 

If you do not want to encourage plant growth you can skip deadheading, this will likely mean that you produce the same amount of flowers next year as you did this year. 

If you are happy with the size of your plant you may only want to deadhead your rhododendrons to shape or promote plant growth. 

Overrunning can make it appear too “leggy”, with too much of the rhododendron’s woody branches being shown.

There is a wonderful variety of rhododendrons to choose from, it is important to recognise which type you have. 

While some varieties can thrive if drastically cut back, overprunning some varieties can inhibit next year’s blooms. 

But, overall pruning will be good for your plant’s health and productivity in the long run. 

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