Rhody Bush Becoming A Rhody Tree

Asked June 15, 2020, 9:22 AM EDT

Our beautiful old Rhody is nearly as tall as our roof. Would like to trim it back, without injuring it. Any suggestions as to how, when, etc? Thank you!

Jefferson County Washington

1 Response

Hello--well, if you want this to become a much smaller bush, you can trim it down to about 6-12 inches from the ground. However, I would do this over the course of 3 years, taking 1/3 off each time. The ideal time to rejuvenation prune is when the bush is dormant. Right now the leaves are creating food for the roots. In late winter-early spring next year, prune, then fertilize. Remember, though, your bush won't bloom again for 3 or more years, as all the energy is going into regrowth of the branches. But, if you're patient, you'll be rewarded with a manageable plant. The main problem I see is that the wood may be very old, and there may not be many viable dormant buds--buds that are supple and pliable, not shriveled and dry. If that's the case, trim the branches to just above viable buds. Again, this will probably still be a drastic pruning, so only remove 1/3 over 3 years. Take a look at this article from the American Rododendron Society: