What’s the best way to prune large rhododendrons that were damaged by deer?


Damaged rhododendronThe lower 3-4 feet branches of my large rhododendrons have been eaten by deer. Should these branches be pruned as the upper part of the bush just keeps growing taller?


Frank Wertheim, Extension Educator, Agriculture/Horticulture

In the photo it appears that the lower branches, while severely eaten back by the deer, still have some live branches. If you want to try and keep these, so that the plant has a chance to fill back out at the bottom, then when you prune, cut these back to the first live buds and leaves that you see. Remove any dead and broken branches. Pruning the upper part of the tree where the deer have not reached, will help it from appearing too tall and lanky and help create the shape you desire. 

Here is a UMaine Extension fact sheet, Bulletin #2169, Pruning Woody Landscape Plants, and a Virginia Tech fact sheet on Pruning Rhododendrons.