My rhododendron did beautifully this year. Can you tell me the best way to care for the plant after it has bloomed? Should I prune it now or wait? Thanks!
Congratulations on your success with your rhododendron this year! There are a few maintenance tips that will help keep your plant healthy and ready for next year’s bloom. There really isn’t any need to prune your rhododendron, unless you specifically need to control for size. If this is the case, the best time to prune is immediate after flowing in the spring. But be aware that the buds for next year will start to set shortly after this year’s blooms have finished. You can remove any dead or damaged branches anytime during the year. You may want to carefully deadhead (remove) the spent blooms to direct the plants energy into foliage growth rather than seed production. Again, be careful not to remove any new buds forming beneath the spent blooms. Avoid fertilizing for the remainder of the year. Rhododendrons should be fertilized sparingly, if at all, and only in the early spring with a fertilizer specific to acid-loving plants.
Make sure you keep your plant well-watered during the hot dry summer months, but be careful not to overwater. Rhododendrons have shallow roots that can dry out quickly, but they don’t like to have “wet feet” so note the moisture in the soil before you water. It appears you already have a layer of mulch, which is a great idea to help retain moisture in the soil.
Reduce watering in the fall to help them harden for winter. If the fall has been very dry, you can give them a final water after the first killing frost. To protect your plant over the winter, make sure there is a good 3 to 4 cm layer of mulch (but keep mulch a away from the base). You can also protect your plant from winter damage by creating a burlap barrier. Don’t wrap the plant directly, but rather place stakes around the perimeter and wrap the stakes.