We’ve recently moved to a home that has several mature azaleas. Unfortunately, the previous homeowners could not do much to maintain the landscaping. The azaleas are about 15 feet tall and are filled with mostly dead branches in the center. How far back should I cut them back and are there any tricks to make sure they will redevelop full, instead of leggy. Thank you for your help!
It’s important to prune azaleas soon after the blooms have faded. You can also prune re-blooming azaleas, right after the first bloom cycle in spring. Because the branches on azaleas are so thin, all you need is a pair of sharp pruners.
When you cut them, don’t sheer them straight across the top to give them a flat-top. Azaleas and other shrubs look better when their natural form is maintained. So, just selectively remove the stems. Go for older canes, and always remove any dead wood you might find.
When you prune, make a smooth cut next to the stem, so you don’t leave any little stumps. Also, on new stems, make the cut just above a leaf bud. Don’t be timid. Azaleas are very forgiving.
With the pruning done, feed them with a granular fertilizer that’s blended for azaleas and other acid loving plants. And then in about a month feed them again, so they’ll set lots of buds for next year’s bloom. These pruning techniques not only apply to azaleas, but to other early spring flowering shrubs that bloom before the middle of June, like forsythia, quince and spirea.
What is the best method for planting azaleas? I planted 8 last year and have already replaced 3 this year and need to replace 2 more.
The azalea is one of the showiest of the early spring flowering shrubs. They are quite simple to grow as long as you site and plant them correctly. Here are a few tips on the conditions azaleas favor and some guidelines on how to plant them.
Azaleas do best when protected from long periods of summer sun. Full morning sun or partial shade is ideal. They love cool, moist acidic soils, rich in humus or organic matter. Soil with lots of organic matter helps to keep the soil loose, and it also helps maintain a constant level of moisture.
Typically there are two things that kill azaleas. The first is putting them in the wrong location such as a location where it is too hot or a place where the soil is entirely too wet. The other problem is planting them too deeply. This can be the kiss of death for an azalea. To avoid this problem, plant them no deeper than the top of the root ball or the soil line in their container. Then water the shrub in to displace any air pockets in the soil.
Most of an azalea’s feeder roots are near the surface, which makes them susceptible to dry conditions. So, be sure to apply a 2″ to 3″ layer of mulch around the azalea. But, make sure you stay below the crown of the plant. To finish the job feed the shrub with a fertilizer especially blended for azaleas. And, then later in the summer, give them another feeding.
Most azaleas do not grow well in Northern gardens. They cannot survive the winters, but breeders have come a long way in developing varieties that are more cold tolerant. Check with your local nurseries and see which azaleas do best in your area.