When to prune rhododendrons UK – 3 top tips

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Rhododendrons are a popular choice for gardens nationwide, with shrubs flowering from spring through to the early summer. With beautiful bright coloured flowers and glossy green leaves, rhododendrons can add a pop of colour to any green space.

Typically rhododendrons are planted in the autumn or spring, preferring acidic soil and sites with dappled shade.

However, take care to avoid any areas with frost pockets or deep shade below trees.

As long as you take care to not let the soil dry out you can plant dwarf rhododendrons in full sunlight.

Make sure you adhere to the planting instructions from any garden centre for your type of rhododendron.

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The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) advises

  • Rhododendrons need moist but well-drained, acid soil between pH 5.0 and 6.0 that is rich in organic matter
  • If you have alkaline soil, grow rhododendrons as container plants or see our page on more tolerant species and cultivars. Reducing soil pH is not simple
  • Dwarf alpine rhododendrons are effective in a rock garden
  • Larger rhododendrons are excellent for woodland gardens
  • Compact hybrids are ideal for containers on shaded patios

When it comes to care, try and use rainwater to water your rhododendrons as tap water can contain too much calcium.

This can reduce the soil’s acidity, so collect rainwater whenever you can.

You can use tap water during the hot summer months, however, try to only do so for a couple of months.

So when should you prune your rhododendrons? Read on for top tips.

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When to prune rhododendrons UK

You shouldn’t need to prune your rhododendrons too often, only remove dead wood or deadhead any dying flowers.

You can control the size of your plant by cutting it back, however, take care when doing so and keep watered to encourage the plant to grow.

Deadheading can be done once flowers are spent, a method which helps trigger new growth.

Flowers tend to die down in late spring or early summer, depending on when it was planted.

1. Simply take a sharp pair of secateurs and snip away any dead flowers.

You can also cut back the branches at the end of its flowering season.

2. Thompson Morgan also recommends “shortening the branches down to a cluster of leaves once the shrub has finished flowering”.

This “will keep it from getting too big and encourage bushier growth. “

Finally, if you have an established rhododendron, hard pruning can bring it back to life

3. In February or March – when it isn’t frosty – cut back your rhododendron branches hard to the buds.

Make sure to feed the plant, apply mulch and water well if you choose to heavily prune.

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