Q: After this harsh winter, my rhododendron was left with a lot of dead spots. Rather than prune those out and leave a poorly shaped shrub, I’d rather cut it all back and start over. How far back can I cut my plant without killing it?
— L.S., Akron
A: That depends on the shrub, the American Rhododendron Society says. Look at the base, it advises. If your rhododendron has multiple stems coming up from the ground, you can cut it down to several inches about the ground. If the shrub has only one stem, however, such drastic pruning may kill the plant.
In the latter case, the society recommends cutting the shrub back in stages over three years so you retain enough leaves to supply nutrients for the plant’s re-establishment. Reach down into the shrub and cut out about one-third of the old wood this year, and then repeat that in each of the next two years.
It’s best to do that kind of drastic pruning on a rhododendron in spring, the society says.
Have a question about home maintenance, decorating or gardening? Akron Beacon Journal home writer Mary Beth Breckenridge will find answers for the queries that are chosen to appear in the paper. To submit a question, call her at 330-996-3756, or send email to email@example.com. Be sure to include your full name, your town and your phone number or email address.