How to Prune a Rhododendron


Rhododendron occupies a special place in the heart of gardeners. This hardy shrub produces spectacular trumpet-shaped blooms in the spring mixed with glossy green leaves. Rhododendron produces flowers in early- to mid-spring. These tough plants require little care as long as the gardener provides optimum growing conditions. Plenty of space to grow, rich soil and adequate water will help this evergreen thrive. Pruning rhododendron involves evaluating the condition of the plant and whether it has plenty of space to grow. Keeping the plant healthy will prevent disease and limit long-term maintenance on this beautiful shrub.

Step 1

Decide the type of pruning needed to keep the plant healthy. One type of pruning involves removing spent flower blooms. The second type of pruning involves removing damaged limbs and dead areas from the plant. Reserve rejuvenation pruning to control plant growth.

Step 2

Use pruning clippers to cut back flower blooms as soon as they begin withering. Failure to remove spent blossoms will cause limited blooms the following year.

Step 3

Schedule other types of pruning after the plant has finished flowering for the season. Time your pruning to allow at least two to three months of the growing season to promote new branch growth and buds to house blooms for next year.

Step 4

Cut back damaged and diseased limbs using pruning clippers for branches smaller than 3/4 inch. Choose loppers or a pruning saw for larger branches. Make cuts at a 45-degree angle to the nearest branch as close to a joint as possible. If you choose not to remove a branch, try to locate the angled cut 1/4-inch from an existing bud or branch shoot.

Step 5

Rejuvenate the entire plant only if necessary. Harsh pruning can often stunt growth and kill the plant. If the rhododendron begins to look spindly, rejuvenation prune by choosing branches at regular intervals around the bush to evenly trim the bush. Clip the branches to the nearest main branch or stem of the plant using an angled cut.

Step 6

Collect all plant clipping and flowers from the garden bed and dispose of them in the compost pile or in yard waste bags. Removal of plant debris helps limit mold growth and discourages rodents from nesting in the decomposing plant material.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Pruning clippers
  • Pruning loppers
  • Pruning saw


  • University of Missouri Extension
  • Oregon State University

Who Can Help

  • Pruning Guide from the University of Maryland
Keywords: rhododendron pruning, prune rhododendron, rhododendron

About this Author

Currently studying for her Maryland master gardener certification, Sharon Heron has written professionally since 2006. Her writing includes hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics including gardening, environment, golf, parenting, exercise, finances and consumer how-to articles.