Rhodedendrons desperately need cutting back as well as my evergreen hedge. What do I do?

Asked August 10, 2016, 5:32 PM EDT

They all are radically overgrown and need to be really cut back. From what I have read January is the time to do this.Is this so? I have had no luck with gardening people around here who just want to cut my lawn every week (I cut my lawn myself). I think they need a severe cut back. I cant cut the hedge myself as it is so high.Can the evergreen hedge be cut back to half its size without killing it? I think I could manage cutting it in half. Thanks for your advice.

Otsego County New York

2 Responses


The best time to prune evergreens is after they put out new growth but before the buds form which is usually mid-june to mid-july. You could cut plants back now but you would be cutting off all the buds for next year's growth. Plus if drought conditions are prevailing in your area, plants will be stressed and it would be better not to stress them further.

Usually rhododendrons are not really pruned but only shaped lightly. That is why it is important to find out the mature size of a plant before planting it so it won't grow out of bounds. As a general rule of thumb, except for yews and occasionally other evergreens, if you cut back to a stem (brown wood), the plant will rarely regenerate growth on that branch.

Hemlocks can be sheared to a greater extent than rhododendrons but they too should have been pruned already this year. Also keep in mind that unless you planted a dwarf variety, the goal of a hemlock is to grow into a tree and you can only keep them small for so long.

The bottom line is you could cut your hedges in half and they probably would not die but they might look strange. Of the 2 shrubs, the rhododendrons would probably recover the best. See: http://www.finegardening.com/3-ways-prune-rhododendrons I really do not think that method of pruning would be suitable to hemlocks.

It is not easy to make pruning suggestions in this format. You might be better off getting some books with pictures out of the library, looking at youtube videos or attending a pruning demonstration sometimes held by horticultural societies, extension centers and other venues.

You could call up landscaping firms and see if they do have people for hire that would go out and consult with you and even prune your plants.

I am not trying to avoid your question but you would be better off with the advice of someone who would be able to evaluate your situation rather than just look at pictures.

These plants were here when we moved in here ten years ago. I have looked at things on line and will continue to do so. I have contacted gardeners, professional landscapers, but they do not want to advise they want a contract to maintain my property and were for the most part useless. I will continue to research. thank you for your input.