The best time is right after flowering when new growth is beginning. Rhododendrons and azaleas flower on the prior year's wood. The buds for spring flowering form on the plants during the previous summer or fall. If you prune in the late summer, fall, or winter you may be trimming off your flowers for the following spring.
Where to prune
With the larger leaved rhododendrons you must prune just above growth joints.
Each year as the plant starts to grow there is a visible point where the plant started growth. We call this point a growth joint. Prune just above this point, because that is where the dormant growth buds are located. Don't prune between joints, because there are no dormant growth buds in that area.
However, with azaleas and the small leafed rhododendrons, you may prune anywhere along the stem, though you may not be able to see them, these plants have dormant growth buds nearly everywhere.
When to prune
Generally prune right after the plant is through flowering.
Light maintenance pruning will not affect flowering for the following year if done as directed. Cutting back a rhododendron heavily can stop the plant from flowering for a year or two.
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