Sick rhododendron

Asked May 20, 2018, 5:11 PM EDT

My “Ken Janeck” rhododendron is in bad shape. It’s 15 years old, brown curled leaves, no blossoms this spring. You can see rabbits chewed some top leaves, above the chicken wire. I don’t pay attention to it because it was fine. Can I cut off the worst stems,would feeding help, is it a goner?

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

Thank you for contacting AaE for help.

The brown leaves may be due to winter injury. Rhododendrons have shallow roots and if they are not sufficiently watered before the ground freezes or if the winter lasts too long, their green leaves which continue to photosynthesize and transpire throughout the winter can dry out. The brown leaves appear to be at the top of the plant and the leaves there were probably exposed to the sunlight above the snow.

Rabbits will chew on Rhododendrons. I'd clean up the plant by cutting out the dead stems and leaves.

Next fall make sure the plant gets an inch of water each week until the ground freezes. Surround it with wire fencing for the winter to keep the bunnies away.

For further reading you might check out Common Problems of Rhododendrons and Azaleas put out by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.