“Any Azalea experts out there?”

azalea
Photo by PoPville flickr user John

“Dear PoPville,

I’m looking for someone who can help me assess whether or not my Azalea bushes are salvageable. I planted them last year and have to admit that they seemed to struggle shortly after they were planted. That being said I do see new leaf sprouts and feel as though they might have a chance if someone who knew what they were doing could tend to them.

My husband is determined to just uproot them and start over, where as I’d love to be able to save them.

If you can offer any help or advice it would be appreciated!”

9 Comment

  • Without seeing a photo, I’d leave them alone for now. Don’t trim them or you’ll cut off the new flower buds. Azaleas are tough and tend to make it through winter looking a little scraggly right around now, but give them a chance to flourish. If they don’t recover by this summer, replace them in the fall.

  • Agreed. Right now most small azaleas look like brown twigs. Wait until May. If they haven’t leafed out and flowered, consider pulling them up. They are acid-loving plants, so it helps to mulch them with pine bark chips or pine straw. They also appreciate azalea-specific fertilizer.

  • justinbc

    Make sure your spot has sun in the morning and shade in the evening. They love fresh compost too.

  • I’m interested in this topic. We planted an azalea in our yard a couple of years ago and it’s always been kind of meh; it hangs in there, but doesn’t grow much and doesn’t have many blooms. Meanwhile, other plants in the bed thrive.

  • If you don’t have acidic fertilizer on hand (Holly Tone or Osmocote for Acid Loving Plants would be great!), you can also mix 4 cups of spent coffee grounds with a cup of bonemeal and work into the soil 1-3″ then water. Also, too much mulch at the base of the plant could be the problem. Try thinning the mulch down to about an inch at the trunk, and gradually going thicker towards the drip line. Good Luck!!

    • I agree! Ours was dying and I got some used coffee grounds from the Coupe and put some on the base and since then it is looking better. I pruned the dry branches and am starting to see some growth. Also removed the mulch from the base. Hope it gets better or will plan to start all over.

  • Agreed with everything here. I had an azalea die on me in the polar vortex in 2014 and had to remove it which led me to go searching for info on them. Questions: where did you plant them in your yard? Are they in the shade, part shade? They don’t like full sun in hot climates because the sun burns the leaves. The best place is filtered sun beneath a tree because they can get a mix of sun and shade. Also, they have shallow root systems. So, they need moist but well-drained soil in order to thrive. If you have heavy clay soil (like anyone above Florida Ave … tangent: the soil is different above Florida Ave than Dupont Circle heading south according to a landscape architect friend … has to do with the fall line.) you need to amend the soil so that it drains better with compost. Otherwise your culprit is root-rot from the soil not draining. Finally, if you want to prune it, you should only do it in bloom or shortly thereafter with clean shears. Otherwise, you’ll risk losing next year’s blooms. You can find detailed info from the Azalea Society of America (www.azaleas.org) or Fine Gardening (http://www.finegardening.com/azalea-rhododendron) which are both very informative.

  • Shrubs need to be given at least four or five seasons to find out whether they’ve taken hold. If your soil is very thick and claylike, use a shovel to break up the soil on the outer edges of the roots. Don’t give up on the bushes yet. Place decaying leaves or Pine needles or mulch around the bottom of the plants to help them retain moisture.

    Remember that in the wild animals nibble at these things, so to encourage growth you can pinch the leaves here and there. Plants that are eaten by deer and other animals like to be gently pruned in that way. It shocks them into growing more. Also, if you made the mistake of not watering when you planted them, make sure that they retain moisture during the spring and summer.

    You can cut away dead parts with the pruning shears, and see what grows in their place. It is not uncommon for azalea bushes to have patches of dead zones. Remember that you’re providing a habitat for birds snakes and insects. The perfect beauty of the shrub is not the only goal here.

  • Reach out to Yankee Clippers. http://www.yankeeclippers.com

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