TikTok Professional Gardener Proves You’re Not Tough Enough When Pruning Your Rhodedendrons

Published
TikTok Professional Gardener Proves You're Not Tough Enough When Pruning Your Rhodedendrons

Rhododendrons are a type of shrub that can become leggy and take over a corner of your garden if left unkempt, and become sparse with age. Pruning any plant can be a daunting task, but professional gardener, garden coach, and TikTok creator Jessica Zander shows that you might be too gentle with rejuvenation pruning. In a TikTok video, Zander met with a client who had a huge, overgrown rhododendron in her garden.

Zander pointed out that the client had noticed new growth from beneath the rhododendron’s main branches, which was a good sign. Zander recommended that the client cut just above the new growth, almost down to the base of the shrub. Her methods might seem scary and brutal at first, but Zander says, “Call me in three weeks and tell me you don’t have new growth starting.” The owner followed Zander’s advice, making some very dramatic cuts to the rhododendron, and the results proved that Zander was right all along.

Rhododendrons are resilient to heavy pruning

@youcandoitgardening

See my original post about this (on August 21st). Rhododendrons are incredibly resilient and I was pretty confident this would bounce back quickly but it actually was a little more sparse than I was expecting. Still, the new growth came in 4 weeks later. Phew! I hate to let people down.😅 To give the plant the best chance of producing new growth I advised giving it a lot of water right away, which these clients did. Fertilizer may also be a good idea with such massive carnage like this. This one would be for plants that thrive in acidic soil. When is the best time to prune a rhododendron? There are optimal times to prune certain plants (most are late winter/early spring and for rejuvenation pruning that is the case for these but you’ll be cutting off the flower buds so beware). However, this is an example of how you don’t need to stick to the recommended best practices if the time you have doesn’t fit into that window and it’s actually pretty hard to kill plants from pruning anyway so don’t be afraid. It will definitely take a while for this plant to grow back and become lush and full. But it will! Consider doing this as opposed to removing one entirely. If you can stand to wait, that is.🤣 If you need more guidance and suggestions, download my pruning guide for more information about timing and different categories of plants and how to prune. Go to my website and click the shopping cart at the top: https://www.youcandoitgardening.com To landscapers who suggest replacing old shrubs: please consider proposing this option instead and explain the process and outcome to the homeowner and give them options so they make the best decision for themselves. Location: client’s house (video done by Erin) About me: I’m a garden coach and consultant in zone 6 in the Boston area but almost all of the principles I talk about are applicable to any garden. Go to my website to schedule consultations and more. Unfortunately I don’t have time to answer all the questions so please chime in to help others if you have information to share🌸 #pruning #rhododendron #gardeningtips #gardening #gardening101 #gardeningforbeginners #diylandscaping #beforeafter #gardencoach #gardentok #gardenhack

♬ original sound – You Can Do It Gardening

In an update video posted a few weeks later on TikTok, the client showed her before and after results from following Jessica Zander’s advice. After using pink tape to mark the branches and cutting to Zander’s recommendations, the only things left were a few stubby stems and a few shoots of new growth. The pruning results might look detrimental to any unseasoned gardener, but rhododendron is remarkably resilient. Zander was right when she promised that new growth would return.

While it took some time, the client happily revealed that after four weeks, new buds had already started forming on the pruned branches. “I was pretty confident this would bounce back quickly but it actually was a little more sparse than I was expecting. Still, the new growth came in 4 weeks later,” Zander wrote in the caption of her video, “It will definitely take a while for this plant to grow back and become lush and full. But it will! Consider doing this as opposed to removing one entirely. If you can stand to wait, that is.”

Jessica Zander’s tips for successful pruning

Watering can showering rhododendron blooms

Olga Smirnova/Getty Images

Of course, TikTok videos can make any task seem easy, but it’s important to understand some of Jessica Zander’s other tips before you go wild with the pruning shears. Firstly, you might wonder if the time of year can affect how well your plant bounces back. In the caption beneath her original TikTok video, Zander wrote, “There are optimal times to prune certain plants (most are late winter/early spring) but don’t overthink this. Just do this when you have the time.” However, she also warns against heavy pruning if you’re facing extreme temperatures. Pruning in combination with a sudden freeze or severe drought could shock the plant and slow its recovery.

Despite the possibility of shock, Zander explains, “It’s actually pretty hard to kill plants from pruning anyway so don’t be afraid.” After pruning, the plant will look a bit stumpy and awkward until next spring, but Zander loves the pruning method as an alternative to total replacement. Meeting your rhododendron’s other care needs will ensure a lush and speedy recovery. “To give the plant the best chance of producing new growth I advised giving it a lot of water right away, which these clients did,” wrote Zander. She also suggested using fertilizer, especially in such cases where the plant is severely cut back.

✿ Read More About Flowers.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.