Q. We have a problem with
a rhododendron. Suddenly this year the leaves have not unfurled as
they ordinarily do when the very cold weather departs. The leaves,
except for those on the very bottom of the bush under the snow line,
are tightly curled and very dry. We have noticed other such bushes
with tightly-curled leaves in our neighborhood. We would appreciate
any advice you could give us on our dilemma.
A. The curled and dried leaves you
describe on your rhododendron sound like winter kill. I, too, have
noticed it on many rhododendrons throughout western Massachusetts and
New England, including my own.
Winter kill occurs when moisture evaporates from its leaves during
winter. Bright sunny days, reflected sunlight off the snow, or windy
weather all cause leaves to lose moisture. In winter when the ground
is frozen, the plant can't take up any water through its roots to
replace moisture lost through its leaves. The leaves curl and
eventually turn brown. Once damaged, the leaves do not recover. If
the damage is severe, it can kill the entire plant.
The best way to prevent winter kill is to spray the plant with an antidesiccant.
The antidesiccant coats the
leaves, sealing in moisture. Spray rhododendron, azalea, holly,
mountain laurel, and needled evergreens during late fall to provide
Click here to read more about
antidesiccant and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.