Rhododendrons are a beauty in the yard with their bright bold clusters of flowers in the spring. The shrub gets through the winter quite well and comes back every year; it also handles replanting very well. Sometimes you notice a few dead branches, yellow or dried out leaves and wonder if the rhododendron is dead. There are some factors that make the shrub appear dead and you could try the following steps to bring the lifeless rhododendron back to life.
Make sure that the rhododendron is in the right location. The shrub prefers the afternoon shade. The ideal location would be south, southwest or west direction. Too much sun destroys the chlorophyll, which causes the leaves to turn yellow or have brown patches.
Check the soil for moisture. Insert your finger 4 inches deep into the soil. If it feels dry, the shrub requires water. Water the shrub at least two times a week just enough to soak the area around the root ball of the shrub. Lack of water results in brown leaf tips and the shrub looks like it is dying. Rhododendrons draw water from the leaf's tip first when it senses a water shortage.
Scrape the branch slightly with a knife to see if there is any green colored layer under the bark. If you do not see any green color, the branch is considered dead. Remove the dead branch with a pruning shear to encourage the shrub to grow. Removing the dead branch improves the look of the shrub tremendously.
Check the rhododendron for fungus disease. If the shrub has been growing healthy and all of a sudden has dead branches, the shrub likely is suffering from fungus disease. Use fungicides and follow the directions in the bottle. Fungicide application in late spring and summer help the shrub to recover.
Check if the leaves look yellow with a green vein. This condition indicates lack of iron. Use chelated iron spray from nurseries. Follow the directions on the bottle and spray on the foliage to correct the problem.