B. Rosie Lerner
Consumer Horticulturist


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Question and Answer

Protecting Rhododendrons from Winter Winds

Rhododendron desiccation

Photo credits: Rosie Lerner/Purdue University

Q. I planted a new rhododendron a couple of months ago, and the leaves are already turning yellow and curling up this winter. The plant is on the west side of the house, which was the sunniest location we have. Is there anything I can do to save it? D.L., Lafayette, Indiana.

A. Extreme cold and high winds are especially tough on broadleaved evergreens such as rhododendron because they have a greater surface area through which to lose water, compared to deciduous plants and needled evergreens. And newly planted specimens are particularly vulnerable as they have not yet had a chance to establish a vigorous root system.

Cold and wind can cause rhododendrons to lose water.

Symptoms on rhododendron often include yellow, beige, brown or purplish foliage and leaf margins that are curled or rolled.  Severe or prolonged desiccation will result in dead twigs and buds; however, many specimens can recover if the winter is not too severe. We have much more weather to get through this winter before we know the extent of injury. 

While there's not much to be done about cold weather, you could provide a windscreen for susceptible plants. If you are considering adding additional broadleaved evergreens to your plantings, site them on the east side of the house, away from prevailing winter winds.


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox,