Question From: Walton, Oregon, United States
Q: Hi, I purchased a rhododendron about 3 months ago and planted it. It has half dark brown crispy leaves, meaning each leaf is half brown.. I broke the ball up before I planted it because it was very root bound. It is in a container where it receives half mostly sun. Can I prune this plant down to the top of the ball and start it over. And how often does this plant bloom?
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A: Lack of water is probably the cause of the dying leaves. The current recommended method of pruning the roots of a pot bound shrub is slicing off the encircling roots from the bottom and sides of the rootball. Breaking up the rootball is not recommended. Many folks find it difficult to slice off the side roots and limit the root pruning to the roots encircling the bottom of the pot. Pruning the plant now will stimulate new growth that will not harden off by winter, so wait until spring. In spring I would cut it back by one third. Mulch the surface of the soil with pine needles and wood fines. Spent coffee grounds are also beneficial. Do not fertilize the plant until spring. Rhodies are acid loving plants and benefit from watering with leftover coffee or tea. Do not let the soil in the pot dry out at any time. Good Luck, Nancy and Happy Yardening.