My Rhododendron Is Blooming In October!

My Rhododendron Is Blooming In October!

And other things you might be noticing…

It’s mid-October and your Rhododendron or azalea, normally spring bloomers, is in flower. Maybe there are one or two flowers opening…or perhaps the entire shrub is in bloom. “Why is the plant confused?” you want to know, and “Will it still flower next spring?”

There are three reasons why these shrubs often open some flowers at this time of year.

1.The hours of daylight and darkness are similar to what they are in the spring when these plants normally bloom.

2. After a dry summer, the two soaking rains we’ve had are similar to the moisture we frequently get in the spring.

3. The days are warm but the nights are cool – very much as it is in April!

So the bottom line is that the light, moisture and temperatures are all saying “It’s SPRING!” and the plant is opening flowers in response.

Many rhodys open some flowers at this time of year but the most famous for doing this is the PJM.
Many rhodys open some flowers at this time of year but the most famous for doing this is the PJM.

Will it flower next spring? Only if there are some buds that don’t open now. The buds that have opened in the fall will not open and flower again in the spring.

Several of these buds aren’t opening now so they should bloom next spring.

Other things you might be noticing in your yard and garden:

White pines are shedding their older needles. These are the inside needles and they are turning brown and falling. This is normal at this time of year as the plant is shedding the old so that it doesn’t have to carry it through the winter.

Some trees are dropping leaves before they color this fall. This is because of the drought…

Mushrooms are popping up all over. The recent rain and the fall temps are a clue for mushroom and other fungi spores to grow. This is natural and nothing to worry about in most cases. You can let them grow and fade as they will, but if you’re worried about kids or pets eating them, pluck them up and put them in the brush pile or a paper bag for disposal. Many of these fungi are very beautiful and magical, so whenever possible relax and enjoy their short appearance.

Annuals and Perennials are closing up shop. Our flowering plants are shutting down for the season. Any annual that’s yellowing or drying up can be pulled up. Perennials that are no longer attractive can be cut to an inch above the ground. Note that it’s not worth cutting Hosta down because at the first frost it will shrink down to nothing anyway…so just wait for Mother Nature to help with the Hosta clearing.

Be sure to celebrate the season with pumpkins, mums and other cool-weather flowers!


  1. Naomi Just on October 20, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for such useful information.

  2. PATRICIA Mcdonald on October 20, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Love getting these newsletters and information!
    always great advice and wonderful suggestions!

  3. Gaby Elitov on October 21, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Great information. I enjoy reading your Emails. Thanks.

  4. Pat on October 21, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    Thank you! I really enjoy these newsletters

  5. Anne Schiraga on October 24, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for the information about blooms on the Rhodys!
    Your advice about perennials – do you include woody stem bushes in this group for pruning back to the ground?
    We have St. John’s Wort bushes that are 2 plus feet tall and 3 feet wide at this point. Should I prune them back so low now or wait for the spring and take out the dead stems?

    • CLFornari on October 24, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      Anne – Glad you like the blog and newsletter!
      No, woody plants don’t get cut back now, only herbaceous perennials. (The term “herbaceous” is one used for plants that die to the ground in the winter but come back from their roots in the spring.) Wait and prune woody shrubs and perennials (lavender, Russian Sage etc) in the spring. You can cut St. John’s wort back by about half in April.

  6. Gail johnson on October 27, 2016 at 7:56 am

    How much longer should I be watering my shrubs and perineal?

    • CLFornari on October 27, 2016 at 8:30 am

      Since we had such a dry summer you are well-served to water evergreen shrubs well into November if possible. Perennials you can ease off of now that it looks like we might have (fingers crossed) more regular rain.

  7. Paula Emerick on October 27, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I too enjoyed the information especially about the St. John’s Wort because I have them!
    I have a question about Hydrangeas. Mine are in bloom NOW. Beautiful blue and large blooms. I plan to cut them and dry them in the garage then use them in our Christmas tree. But, what to do for the plant! Cut back now or wait for Spring? HELP, please.

    • CLFornari on October 28, 2016 at 10:19 am

      I too am enjoying the second bloom on my re-peat flowering Hydrangeas such as Endless Summer, Penny Mac, Enchantress, and Bloomstruck. Note that if you’re cutting them for Christmas wait until the flowers turn lavender-gray blue and get a bit papery – when they are fresh, new and sky-blue they will wilt instead of dry.

      In order to have the most flowers on any blue hydrangea (lacecap or mophead) the only pruning you should do is to remove deadwood in late-May. Don’t cut them in the fall. Don’t cut them back in the spring. In May, when you can clearly see what’s living and what’s dead remove any cane or part of a cane that doesn’t have leaves on it, and let all the rest remain. Give up on making them shorter at any time since they replace their height by mid-July anyway.

  8. Michelle Augustyn on November 5, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    Great, and clear advice on the Hydrangeas. Always so confusing for novice gardeners. Think I’ve finally got it, and can help others navigate Hydrangeas. Also good clarification on which perennials to cut to the ground in the fall. Thanks, everyone.

  9. May Cross on October 8, 2022 at 6:18 am

    I have 2 pots of Flamingo Willow, can I prune it to shape and when is the best time to do it early Spring or late autumn?.
    Does Japanese Prunus ” The Pink Perfection” loose it leaves in the Winter? Does it need Pruning if it gets too big, and when is the best time to do it?

    • CLFornari on October 10, 2022 at 10:20 am

      Best time to prune these willows is in early spring. They can be cut back hard, to a foot tall if you wish.
      Yes, this cherry tree will drop leaves in the fall. It’s best to let a tree grow to be it’s natural size, and the only pruning should be to remove dead wood, crossed branches and those stems going into the center of the plant. Prune in early spring, before or right after flowering.

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