How to Prune Rhododendron | A Step By Step Guide (Ultimate Guide)


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Well! Nature is a friend of everyone, and it has blessed us with many eye-catching landscapes with beautiful flowers and trees. It depends on us how we make good use of the natural herbs and products to better mankind and help ourselves. The rhododendron is a lovely shrub with large paddle-shaped leaves and a glorious show of bright blooms that can add beauty to your garden. It is ideal for winter landscapes, and its fresh green leaves are a masterpiece throughout the year. Its flower clusters offer a variety of color pops in early spring and late summer. In the article, we will discuss how to prune rhododendron in detail. Let me walk you through the process here.

What is Pruning?

Pruning may be defined as the removal of plant tissue in order to regulate a plant’s growth. More of an art than a science, it is a method of modifying natural processes to achieve horticultural objectives. The plant’s undesirable portions may be removed by pruning, including flower buds, blossoms, softwood, hardwood, base sprouts, and occasionally roots. Applying cookbook techniques and alternative methods for dynamic development, such as fertilizing, watering, managing pests, and growing often, is not a normal procedure.

How to Prune Rhododendron

How to Prune Rhododendron

Now we will tell you how to prune rhododendron.

  • A good way of starting the pruning of rhododendrons is to look at the structural changes you should make.
  • If the plant is long ignored, you should first cut the dead branches of the plant.
  • Then removal of branches and weak wood is a must.
  • To give room to the remaining branches, cut the excess components of the plant.
  • Now remove the drooping branches that feed upon the leaves.
  • Cut the spindly shoots that are developing along the bole.
  • The grafted plants remove the sprouts from them because they produce flowers from the plant’s base of a different color, like lavender.

Pruning Rhododendron Guide

Although you need a little care for rhododendron pruning, especially when shrubs respond correctly to the occasional trimming and neutralized settings, it may need heavy pruning if you want to have excessive growth.

  • Pruning rhododendrons with hedge trimming is suitable for maintenance, shaping.
  • Rejuvenation pruning is the best treatment for overgrown plants.
  • The most commonly used pruning type is maintenance pruning, which involves cutting off spent flowers, old and deadwood.
  • When once the blooming has stopped, it is necessary to remove the flower stems from the shrubs.
  • While pruning rhododendrons, you should permit the dead flower clusters to remain to reduce the flowering for the following year.
  • Removal of dead or diseased portions of the shrub and cutting from the old flower cluster base is essential.

Best time for Trimming Rhododendrons


If you want thriving growth, the best time for trimming rhododendrons is the late winter, when the plant is dormant.

  • If you trim them between the first frost in fall and the last frost in spring, you can get the best results.
  • However, the worst time for trimming rhododendrons is when the plants are following lush spring growth, and the new foliage is getting hard.
  • This will increase blooming.

Pruning rhododendrons

  • If you have planned to do pruning, you should also fertilize your shrub in the previous year’s late fall.
  • This step will lead to the leggy growth of rhododendrons.
  • So blooms from the buds of the following year flowers will stop.
  • Therefore when you see that flowers are fading, you should not trim them more than 15 to 20 inches from the most substantial branches.
  • To expose the inner branches cut the plant back.
  • Now cut the ¼ inches from the topmost leaf in the cluster you want to remove and keep the leaves’ last whorl.
  • According to your requirements, overgrown and large rhododendrons are likely to be cut about 12 to 15 inches from the ground.
  • The plant has three or more main branches that emerge from the crown of the plant. 
  • To form a more natural-looking shrub, each of these primary branches should be cut to a different height.
  • Above the latent bud, cut it down to about ½ to ¾ inch, so pruning above the 2 or 3 buds cluster is best.
  • More severe pruning can be proved best if you cut them to about 6 inches from the ground.
  • You should remember that after this heavy pruning, the flowers may not produce, and the adventitious sprouts at the base of the plant will form new shoots.

Pruning for compactness

  • The objective of the commercial growers and landscapers is to do the pruning for budded and compacted rhododendrons.
  • These plants have been grown by good cultural methods that include de-budding and summer pruning to get the abundance of flowers and multiple branching systems.
  • When this happens, you should remove insect-damaged leaves, sun-scorched, winter injured, scraggly foliage, and branches.
  • Before planting rhododendrons, you should remember that it is best to select the one that will not occupy the outgrow allotted space.

Pruning to a single trunk

  • A few pruning gardeners like to prune plants with high and trained to a single trunk or few main stems.
  • This treatment is suitable for the structure of the plant and the bark’s texture and thus improves the natural beauty of the plant.
  • Severe pruning rhododendrons and adjoining plants can obtain an arched canopy over the wood-landed type.
  • The openness of high-pruned plants is best for the placement of ladders for deadheading rhododendrons. It is good to cut away some lower branches if a plant has multiple stems, and the aim is to get the tree-like effect.

Pruning for special effects

  • Generally speaking, the profile of rhododendrons is regular.
  • It is better to prune a group of rhododendrons so that foliage on one side should be torrent near the ground and from the other side is likely to be pruned to a high level to increase the beauty of the trunk and large branches.
  • In this way, they exhibit the foliage’s unbroken edge when you see it from one side and a wooded dell from the other side.
  • The exposed trunks should be protected from the sun by other plants and buildings and should face north to east.
  • You can get the best landscape effects by grouping rhododendrons of different sizes and textures or planting them with other companion plants.

Pruning for salvage

  • You should not worry if catastrophe strikes and a plant will be broken; it may be salvaged.

Pruning to facilitate moving

  • Sometimes you may have to remove large and long-grown rhododendrons; this is the most straightforward job to do.
  • If you want the best results, you should do the task in the near fall or early spring, before the new growth starts.
  • You should cut the roots with a sharp shovel but leave the wide and shallow roots and soil.
  • The plant should stand in the loose and well-mulched soil.
  • Some foliage should be pruned in such a way for the compensation of roots loss for the ease of ignoring shock for moving.
  • You should cut off the lower branches and the unneeded upper branches that hampers in the movement process.
  • Now it is a good chance for reshaping a neglected plant.

Pruning for bonsai

  • If you use the culture of bonsai for pruning purposes, it seems to be the best option.
  • The evergreen azaleas and small-leaved rhododendrons are an excellent choice for bonsai.
  • These pruning and growing rhododendrons are given in “Rhododendron information,” a book published in American Rhododendron Society to get the best results.

Treatment for pruned surfaces

  • It is best to cut the pruned surfaces from pruning limbs an inch or more in diameter. If treated with a pruning compound.
  • This treatment depends on the will of the grower, as it is not necessary.
  • The hard pruning leads to the plant’s vigorous and messy growth. So it is best to cut only up-to 25 to 30 % of the leaves per year. Hope you have learned how to prune rhododendron.

How to Prune Rhododendron: FAQs 

How do you fix leggy rhododendrons?

On the primary branches, cut just above a latent bud, or even better, a cluster of buds. In severe cases, you can cut your rhododendron to within 6 inches of the ground. Rejuvenation pruning is best used to restore shrubs that have become leggy, overgrown, or otherwise unattractive.

Should I deadhead rhododendrons?

Yes! Deadheading or removing old spent flowers is good, as it gives more energy to bud for production. And leaf growth compared to seeding.

How do you remove a large rhododendron?

You can remove large rhododendrons by manual control and waiting in the spring. Or fall when the soil is moist to remove the shrub manually.


So, at the end of the topic, how to prune rhododendron, it will not wrong to say that rhododendrons should not be pruned unless you have got the purpose of pruning. So you should not be scared of using saw to get the wanted result, as they appreciate the attention and care.

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