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To snip or not to snip..

  • To snip or not to snip..
  • To snip or not to snip..
  • To snip or not to snip..
  • To snip or not to snip..
  • To snip or not to snip..
  • To snip or not to snip..

My lovely, 10 year old, dwarf rhododendron ‘Dopey’ is finished flowering, it is an amazing display when it’s in full swing, but the flowering often coincide with a heat wave every year so it is oh so short. Compared to my rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’, which flowers from early February and onwards and often spends more than 2 months before the last flower has opened, Dopey has a short, but spectacular show of just a few weeks.

And now it’s all over and a whole year till next time. All I am left with are lots of ‘fingers’ where the flowers were, after I have meticulously picked off all the dead flowers. Some years I have snipped off the withered flower clusters, some years I haven’t, to me, the result has been the same, ‘Dopey’ has flowered amazingly every year. I have read up about this and some places they say you can carefully cut off these, other places they say leave it to dry until it all falls off by itself. So some years I have just left it. Unsightly as it is. ‘Dopey’ has a rather prominent place in my garden so I would rather like to tidy him up a bit, even though it is a lot of work. On one of the photos you can see I have started to do it, carefully snipping off the clusters, right where next years’ flowers already have started to develop. That’s important when doing this, not to snip too low, or you won’t get any flowers next year.

So now I would be interested to hear what you do with your rhododendrons, all you knowledgeable people - snip or leave it? Have you found any pros and cons with either method?

Comments (3)

  1. Grower


    I am a big believer in the value of dead-heading rhododendrons. It means that the plant puts its energies into growth and buds for the following season rather than into producing large seed pods.

    In particular, it can really help younger or less healthy plants. Plus it always makes a better-looking plant once the flowering season is over.

    I wait till all the petals have dropped, then pinch each spent flower truss between thumb and forefinger and snap them off.

    It certainly takes time, but I have learnt over the years to do it in a slightly mindless way as I walk the garden. Rather than say I have got to do all the deadheads on one rhododendron and get painfully bored doing it, I do a few on each one each time, then wander on. Over a few weeks you'd be surprised how easily the job gets done.

    My other rule is that I only deadhead flowers I can sensibly reach. Once they are beyond my range I leave them. I reckon that once a bush has got to that size it's big enough to look after itself!

    I have never counted, but I must deadhead many thousands of flowers each year. With more than 350 rhododendrons in our garden, it probably is a rather large number!

  2. Grower

    Helene U Taylor

    Hello, and thank you for your reply, great to hear from an expert!
    I will just continue to deadhead my rhododendrons then, I so agree they look much better once deadheaded! I can’t imagine doing it to 350 rhododendrons though, I have only 2 and that’s not so much work - but 350?! The way I do it is that I sit on my garden stool with a washing-up bowl next to me, that’s what I use to collect deadheaded flowers, and I just snip away whilst letting my mind go. I do a lot of deadheading around the garden like that :-) I sometimes just do like you, pinch and snap, but after 8-10 flower trusses like that, my arthritic fingers don’t like those movements and prefer secateurs instead. Fortunately my rhododendrons are rather small and compact so I can reach all around them.

  3. Grower


    Yes - I certainly don't do them all! There are whole parts of the garden that get little attention; then high profile plants and spots where I do all I can see. It's a bit like decorating a house, you put most time, money and effort into the Hall and main reception rooms, while the back kitchen has old lino on the floor and gets a cursory lick of paint once every 10 years!

    As for the deadheading action, no doubt it has thickened the skin and strengthened the muscles of my thumb and forefinger over the years.

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