I don't know what kind of tree this is and want to help save it! Here is a picture of it when it was at its best in 2012!!
What is it?!?
These are the leaves and buds
More up close
Looks like a rhododendron, usually considered a shrub.
Actually, it looks like two rhododendrons, because of the different flower colors.
They are fairly easy to find at garden centers (maybe not a particular color, but a good garden center could probably order you a variety with the color and characteristics you want).
If you can show a photo of your rhodies' current condition, maybe someone here can help you save them.
Adding info about your zone and/or general location (like SW VA, or Chicago suburbs 5b) may help to diagnose the problem.
Here you can enter your zip code and find out your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
Okay: I see the new photos. When did the buds/stems turn brown?
If not your location/zone, can you tell us about your winter?
Leaves do not last forever. The oldest leaves will be toward the bottom of each branch/stem and like the previous poster said, we had us a very bad winter in some parts of the country. Basically your shrub look healthy and if you lost one branch, it's not necessarily anything to impact the rest.
Yes, it's definitely a rhododendron. And if those brown leaves are what concerns you, don't worry. Rhododendrons drop some of their older leaves every year, it should be fine.
i have about 60% more of that damage.. and it was winter related ... here in MI ... after my z5 MI suffered a z4 winter ...
prune out the ugly stuff.. and move on with life ... i didnt even bother to do that ... prune back to a live branch ....
I think you have Rhodedendron Maximum. I have 3 but they are babies. The Rhodedendron Maximum are not found at your local big box store. I dug one from the wild and got 2 from "Rarefind nursery" in NJ. They grow slow so you are lucky to have 2 tall ones. Rhod Max is considered a tree, because it grows taller than big box hybrid Rhodies. Post a pic of them in decline. Those in the picture look too good to be in decline. I am guessing by your pics that you have Rhod. Maximum. I may be incorrect, but the leaves look like the wild R.M. that grows wild in our mountains locally here, in other words, Rhod. Max. I recently got too close on a windy day, to one of my regular hybrid Rhodies and killed it. Do you use herbicides? I know other things could have done it in beyond your control. If it isn't too badly afflicted, it is likely as already mentioned, the leaves are replacing themselves.
First of all... Thank you everyone for your responses!
I live in New Jersey smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania and New York city. We had a really horrible winter and it's been raining pretty much since the winter ended. Okay maybe not every day but it's still been raining a lot! Not to mention the deer have really done a number by eating my babies!
I definitely do not herbicide or use any chemicals of that sort. The trees have been here since my family bought the house and I know that the previous owners were very big on gardening so they're definitely at least 10 years old.
I love them and need to save them! They're so beautiful and right outside my front door.
Here are some recent pictures I took... Sorry it's dark... It's night time right now!
It looks like a limb died, also a bunch of scattered twigs.
When did you notice the dead leaves? Spring, or more recently?
LOL yeah, that looks a tad different than the first pictures. Missingtheobvious is asking all the right questions.
I hope you can do some pruning, and as a result, get some good ambitious new growth in spring 2015.
The good news is, the rhododendron is not dying. In the final photo you can clearly see new growth emerging from the lower branches. There is, however, a lot of dead wood within the plant. This most likely came about, as others have suggested, because of last winter's cold and wind.
At this point in the year, you don't want to stimulate new growth that will not have enough time to harden off before cold weather, so I would not prune out the dead stuff until next spring.
Pruning the dead stuff should not stimulate new growth. Because its dead. Pruning living growth might stimulate new growth, but I would strongly recommend against that.
I would prune the dead stuff out and hope for the best.
We had a similar rhododendron at my parents here in NJ which suffered a 80-90% loss primarily during late summer 2012. I still have no idea what caused it, whether it was a disease or something damaged the roots. What's left is doing fine, but there isn't much. I wouldn't be surprised to come home on a trip and find my dad had gotten tired of its sad appearance and replaced it, but he hasn't done it yet.
This is how it looked just before the big die off... Spring 2012
And here's all that was left alive by the following spring 2013. Most of the die back occurred during summer 2012.
Rhodies are native to the Appalachian area and as such require cool summers, high elevations and thin, rocky soil. Trying to grow them withoth these conditions is an exercise in futility. They will hang around for a while and then slowly waste away.
Your plant has winter damage. Get rid of the dead stuff and then relax with a good bottle of wine.
*SOME* Rhodies are native to the Appalachian area.
*SOME* require cool summers, high elevations, thin rocky soil.
Trying to grow *SOME* without such conditions is an exercise in futility.
No need for blanket statements.
I had Rhodes for over 40 years. The deer used to eat all the lower leaves. Mine grew taller and taller until the deer couldn't reach the tops. They survived and bloomed, but looked like yours with no leaves on the lower branches.
Also, they are shallow rooted and do better mulched with wood chips or leaves. They don't like to dry out or they will wilt and you'll lose leaves.
I would suggest you might have something going on with the roots and I would mulch the area they are growing in. I would also add some Holly Tone in Spring. Holly Tone is an organic fertilizer which is great for them and azaleas (same family). If your problem is deer, there is nothing you can do except to put in fencing (which we eventually did.)
When you prune out dead branches, you generally prune back to a point where there is live tissue. This does indeed stimulate new growth which will likely not have time to harden off for the coming winter. If you want to cut out dead wood without going back to live tissue, you can, but you will need to prune again next spring.
Rhododenrons are native to many, many parts of the world and grow under many different conditions. "Thin rocky soil" is an exception, not a general requirement. This particular rhododendron looks like 'English Roseum' or another of the large growing hybrids. Neither the flowers nor leaves are consistent with r. maximum.
I'm in north central NJ and the rhodies around here have gotten hammered the last several winters, especially the late frosts we've been hit with. As everyone has said, get rid of the dead wood, either now or in the spring, and mulch. And cross your fingers for a less extreme winter this year.
Akmainegrower, while technically you are correct, cutting dead wood out may involve removal of living wood, the most likely scenario is that a side branch dies back to a main branch, making the removal of living wood inconsequential.
she said: We had a really horrible winter
its an evergreen.. that holds leaves for multiple years ...
a bad winter harms said leaves ...
the result often.. does not show until the heat of summer hits ...
unless you have a second bad winter in a row.. i doubt it is dying ...
I'm not tech-savvy enough to embed a photo.
Here is a link that might be useful: Only here for the rhodie...
You need to check your Dirr book.
famartin: The entire point of cutting back just about any plant to live tissue or pinching growth tips for that matter, is to stimulant new growth which will emerge from that point. If "the most likely scenario were dieback to a main branch" there would be no point in doing it on a rhododendron or anything else. The promulgation of this sort of misinformation is not helpful to anyone.
Heh, sorry, but to me, the point of cutting back to living tissue is to allow the branch to heal over naturally, not to mention cosmetic improvements. Why in the world would you want a bush full of dead branches? Now, since dead branches often contain dead leaves, which provide shade to parts of the plant, removing that shade might stimulate growth too.
"Maintaining Plant Health
In pruning to maintain plant health, consider the elimination of dead, dying, or diseased wood. Any dying branch or stub can be the entry point for insects or disease that could spread to other parts of the tree. When removing diseased wood, such as a fungal canker or fire blight, it is important that the cut be made into healthy wood, beyond the point of infection, with a sterile blade. "
Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/agpubs/ag-071.pdf
Lucky, try photobucket. If i can do it anybody can. My brother used to upload my pics for me. He would open a bunch of links to do it and I could NOT learn it, he did it so fast that i was lost. On photobucket, you just put your memory card from your camera or phone in the computer. Then click on upload and push down on the Ctrl button and click on the pictures you want to upload. Then wait for them to load in your photobucket library. My brother likely was taught on older computers, and didn't know the easier way. He went to college and learned computer science, but the newer computers made it easier to upload pics, he learned on computers several years ago. But, anyhoo, it is easy now.