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Rhododendron delights plant lovers of all ages. The trees fascinate with their large flowers in numerous colors and shapes from March until late July, until they wither and no longer look so magnificent. As soon as faded rhododendron flowers appear on the plants, many gardeners wonder whether they should be cut off. Since many rhododendron species have extremely impressive flowers, this question is justified and must be examined carefully.

Cut off faded umbels?

When your rhododendrons are fading, it's time to rid them of their blooms. The reason for this is the vitality of the plant. If the wilted rhododendron flowers are not removed, flowering will be much weaker the next season, which can even get worse over the years. For this reason it is necessary to rid the heather of the withered growth. The reason for this is the formation of seed pods, which rob the plant of a lot of energy, which shows up as weak flowering the following year. The tips below go into more detail on the topic.


No cutting tool

First of all: please do not use any pruning tools to remove a faded rhododendron flower. Rhododendron is extremely responsive sensitive on sharp tools and therefore you should never cut off wilted leaves. This applies to all forms of cutting tools, including:

  • kitchen scissors
  • secateurs
  • knife

The blades could injure the delicate buds that will sprout again next year and sit just below the withered inflorescence. This would inevitably lead to a failure of the flower at this point, which can only be remedied with difficulty, since rhododendrons grow very slowly and only a few new buds develop when pruning measures are taken. Cutting tools are allowed just for the sake of it of the rhododendron if you want to correct its shape after flowering. You can also stimulate flowering if you regularly remove the following shoots, as they prevent growth and steal a lot of energy from the plant:

  • dried shoots
  • injured shoots

This contributes to the effective distribution of nutrients within the rhododendron, which you will notice in the abundance of heather flowers the following year. Nevertheless, you should always be careful not to damage the inflorescences with the cutting tools when doing the light pruning measures, as this will damage the new buds and shoots for the flowering in the following year.

Remove properly without cutting

Removing faded inflorescences on rhododendrons is not that easy, as you can quickly damage the plant, which you will unfortunately only notice when the flowers fail in the following year. That's why you have to come with me sensitivity take steps to minimize the damage or, ideally, not to cause it at all. The following guide will help you remove faded leaves without clipping:

  • grasp the stem of the umbel with one hand
  • gently but with enough force to keep the stem from bending
  • now snap off the stem directly with your free hand
  • be careful not to tear or you will damage the new bud

This method takes some practice, but it's the only way to avoid damaging the rhododendron so you can look forward to new blooms the following year. Cutting is also not allowed here. Breaking off the faded umbels is no problem as long as you remain relaxed. This is important, because otherwise no new cones can sprout at this point.

tip: When faded, rhododendron flowers stick, in some cases even very strongly. If you find this uncomfortable, you can wear gloves to remove the wilted flowers, although soap and water will easily wash off the sticky residue.

Which rhododendrons need to be freed of faded leaves?

You don't have to remove faded inflorescences from every rhododendron. Some of them can optimally distribute their nutrients and set seeds after flowering without having to endure poor flowering the following year. Still others are particularly sensitive to wilting and each bloom weakens the plant even more. Therefore, you should know which specimens require removing the inflorescences and which ones you can safely leave to their own devices. The following is an overview:

Young and weak rhododendrons

If your rhododendron is still young, has fallen ill or is recovering from an illness or bare skin, you should not leave faded flowers on the plant. Since the heather plant still supplies them with energy, you can even die of the plant quickly.

Large-flowered species

A particularly large number of hybrids should be mentioned here, above all Yakushimanum hybrids (bot. Rhododendron yakuschimanum). These species have extremely large flowers and therefore require a lot of energy, despite their rather small stature. The flower size requires quite a lot of seed pods, which makes it necessary to remove dead ones in any case.

Small to medium-sized specimens

If you have a small or medium-sized specimen in the garden, you will also need to remove faded rhododendron flowers. These still have to put a lot of nutrients into their growth, which ultimately means that they no longer have enough available for the formation of new inflorescences.

Large specimens

If you already have an older, well-cared for plant with a national size, you can in many cases leave the flowers with a clear conscience. Nevertheless, check annually whether removing the withered one would be better.

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