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Azalea

November 5, 2016

Question

I have a gift of a blooming azalea bush.  It was rootbound in a small pot and I would like to keep it alive through the winter.  I put potting soil in a larger container and repotted it.  Do I need to do anything else to it?

 

Answer

Florist azaleas should be treated as a houseplant for now.  Give it really bright light and let it get slightly dry in between watering this winter. Next spring, plant it outdoors where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Florist varieties are not as winter hardy as traditional azaleas, but if they have an established root system, they often overwinter fine.


 

July 1, 2016

Question

I have some old large azaleas, and they were gorgeous this spring.  But now, something is attacking their leaves.  On the top of the leaf it looks like a silvery fungus, on the underside of the leaf there are minute reddish specks that will scrape off with the fingernail.  I have used Daconil for fungus and Malathion for insects.  I don’t see a lot of change. Any ideas?

Answer

You have the age-old problem of azaleas, called lacebugs.  These tiny insects feed on the underside of the foliage, and suck sap out.  Fungicides are pointless, since it is not a disease. If the azaleas are small, you can use Malathion--the problem is you must come in contact with the insects, since they are on the underside of the leaves, and spraying the underside of the leaf on a large bush can be difficult.  If the azaleas are large, try a systemic like Orthene or Bayer Advanced tree and shrub insecticide.  With a systemic insecticide contact isn't needed, since the plant takes in the chemical and moves it throughout the plant.  When the insects feed on leaves that have been treated they are then controlled.  I will tell you that this late in the season, the damage that is done will not go away, but once control is started, the symptoms should not get any worse.  


 

May 28, 2016

QuestionI have a white waxy growth on my azaleas? It doesn’t seem to affect the plants, much because we had great blooms this year, but this is the third year we have noticed these mutated leaves. What should we do?

 

AnswerThe deformed waxy leaves are caused by a disease called azalea leaf gall.  It looks worse than it is.  When we have a cool, wet spring we see the problem.  If it is mild, and warm, we don’t.  Just snap the damaged leaves off and dispose of them—not on the ground, as they have spores that can infect the plants next year.  No sprays are needed.  


 

May 14, 2016

QuestionFor 10 years I've tried everything I've read on petal blight on azaleas -- various fungicides, picking off diseased flowers, cleaning out beneath plants and replacing with clean mulch, etc. Nothing has worked. And I hear more and more people in Conway (where I live) complaining about petal blight. Is there anything new out there on this problem?

 

Answer

Petal blight is typically worse when plants are blooming during warm, rainy or misty weather.  All varieties can be attacked. Infected flowers first exhibit small water-soaked spots.  The spots enlarge rapidly and become very slimy, causing entire petals to become slimy and limp, usually within 2-3 days after initial infection. Infected blooms will turn brown quickly and cling longer on the plant after bloom. The disease forms small black fruiting bodies which are typically mature 6-8 weeks after the disease hits.  Removing any blooms that you see that are affected quickly can help in disease control.  The disease overwinters on spent blooms, and on the mulch under the plants.  Replacing the old much in the fall with a clean layer can help, but if you have been battling this for 10 years, you may also want to do a preventative spray with a fungicide containing chlorothalonil (Daconil) prior to bud break and once every 7-10 days during bloom.  


 

April 1, 2016

QuestionWe are getting ready to prune our azaleas once they finish blooming.   We try to prune to keep the plants below our windows.  However, new growth comes up sometimes in the late summer and the bushes get taller than we would like.  If we pruned later would that help?  If so, how late could we prune without hurting our blooms?

 

AnswerWeather conditions and too much fertilizer can be the culprit for late sprouts in azaleas.  Well established plants need little to no fertilizer if they are growing well and blooming annually.  If you want to fertilize, do so as soon after bloom as possible.  Too much nitrogen late in the season will result in more foliage growth and along with ample moisture can encourage too much vegetative growth.  When you do prune, don’t just prune to the height you want them to be—any new growth automatically makes them too tall.  Instead, prune back by a third more to allow for recovery and do so as soon after flowering as possible. When pruning azaleas, I prefer to make selective cuts instead of shearing. The plants have a more natural look when pruned this way versus the meatball look of a sheared shrub.  If you do have a few errant sprouts late in the season, it won’t hurt to cut them out, but any pruning done late in the summer or fall does reduce blooms the following spring.


 

March 12, 2016

Question

I have always fertilized my azaleas after blooming in the spring with systemic azalea fertilizer. I have never seen signs of lace bugs so am wondering if I could just use plain azalea fertilizer ---not systemic? Also is the one feeding enough?  

 

Answer

I think one application of azalea fertilizer is all that established plants need each year.  The time to apply is immediately after bloom. If you do not have insect problems, there is no need to use a combo fertilizer and systemic insecticide. A stand-alone fertilizer should be fine.  I would use an azalea fertilizer such as ammonium sulfate or aluminum sulfate to help keep the soil acidic.  


 

March 5, 2016

 

Question

We planted two new azaleas last year.  Yesterday, I noticed that their leaves are getting spots and some are yellow.  I do not want to lose them.  What should I do?

 

AnswerIf there is any damage to the foliage of a shrub now, it is carry-over from last season.  New plants often go through a bit of a transition while they are getting established their first year.  They are not getting new diseases yet.  The yellowing leaves can simply be leaf shed of the older foliage—on azaleas that often happens in the fall, but they can shed old leaves at any time. Let the plants bloom this spring and then assess if they need pruning. If so, then prune them as soon after flowering as possible. Fertilize after bloom as well. Then monitor the plants for the growing season and see how they do.  If you see new spots, then you can assess the need to spray, but I bet they will be fine.


 

January 23, 2016

Question

Some of my azaleas look like someone has clipped off the ends of the branches with garden shears.  I know no one has done that & assume some animal has.  What could be eating on them that would leave what look like clean cuts?  Also, what can I do to thwart them?  I sprayed around them today with 'Critter Ridder'.

Answer

Sounds like deer to me.  They love azaleas.  With animal issues, you typically need a variety of things to try to prevent damage, including repellants, scare devices and maybe a good dog!  


January 9, 2016

 

QuestionWill my azaleas still bloom this spring, since they bloomed in December?

 

AnswerI think a lot depends on what the rest of the winter holds in store for us.  While many spring blooming plants did have some blooms (and still do) they were not in FULL bloom.  There are still branches with flower buds.  But many plants have started putting on new growth and that could get zapped in really cold weather.  Time will tell.  Don’t prune or do anything else to the plants.  Just wait for spring and hope for the best.


 

Question

My azaleas have a lot of yellow leaves on them.  What is wrong with them and what do I need to do to them?

 

Answer

Take a close look at your shrubs. If the yellow leaves are primarily towards the base of the branches then it is simply old leaves shedding.  The younger leaves and flower buds are those closer to the tops of the branches, and they should be healthy and green.  Evergreen shrubs shed old leaves from time to time, and some varieties of azaleas and gardenias, tend to do a leaf shed all at once.  White and light pink varieties of azaleas have yellow leaves before they fall, while the darker blooming varieties typically turn a dark reddish color before they shed.  Normally we see this happening earlier in the fall, but the mild weather we had in December has a lot of plants confused.   If that is what you have, don’t worry about it.  However if all the leaves are turning yellow, then we have a problem.  Wet feet can be an issue—plants are not growing as much in cool weather, and don’t use as much water. We also lose less to evaporation when it is cool and we have had a lot of rain, so check the drainage.  Also if the veins are green and the leaves are yellow it can be an indication that the pH of the soil is too high.  If azaleas don’t have acidic soil conditions they suffer from iron chlorosis.  They can’t pull the right nutrients from the soil in high pH soils.  If you see this symptom, have your soil tested and see what the pH is, and correct it if needed.  


 

October 31, 2015

Question

When are the best times to transplant established Azaleas. I want to give  three plants a new home that will face more sun (west) over very little sun now. They are good plants but I just want to show them off. I did transplant 1 of 4 plants from the same area (taking a chance) late spring, cool early summer.  It survived the summer and dry fall even though at times it seemed touch and go but now it's prospering.

 

Answer

You have some options. I would not do so as we are heading into winter, since we have had some winter damage even on well-established azaleas the past two winters.  You can move them at the end of winter, but it could impact their spring blooms.  Waiting until immediately after bloom is another option, but there will be more stress on the plants since they will be actively growing.  As long as you are willing to water and pamper them a bit, they should be fine with both of the last two options. 

 

October 17, 2015

QuestionI need help in caring for my azaleas.  When should I water, feed and do they need sprays?  I have both the spring blooming only azaleas and Encores.  One seems to be dying and one is looking a little discolored.  Thanks for your help.

 

AnswerNow is not the time to do anything but water your azaleas when we have no rain.   Spring blooming azaleas have set their flower buds and Encores are blooming now.   Azaleas don’t tolerate drought very well.   Getting too dry can cause some discoloration of the leaves.  Also, don’t be alarmed if your white or light pink azaleas begin to shed some yellow leaves—these are the old leaves, and they often yellow before falling.  Gardenias can do the same thing.  Darker flowering reds and purples often take on a purplish leaf color for the winter as well.  Monitor your azaleas next spring and see how they bloom and begin growth.  Fertilize once a year after they finish blooming.  Do any needed pruning then as well.  The leaf sample you sent did not have any disease or insect infestation, so no sprays seem to be needed.  I don’t recommend preventative sprays on azaleas unless there have been previous problems.


 

December 2014

QuestionMy daughter in Ward has a small azalea plant that was blooming up until the hard frost.  How could I get a cutting from this plant so I could try and grow one myself?  It is a lovely plant, and being small would work very well at my place.

 

AnswerAzaleas are easy to propagate from cuttings.  The best time to propagate is early summer, when the new growth has had a chance to become a bit stronger, but before it turns totally woody.  However, I have used pieces I was pruning off in late spring, and they rooted quite nicely too.  The easiest way for home gardeners is to create a greenhouse environment by putting the cuttings in moist sterile potting mix in a container and covering the whole thing in clear plastic.  Put this in a shady spot in the yard, and they are typically rooted in 3-4 weeks.


 

November 2014

Question Saw your article recently about Tea Scale on Camellias. Could that also be on Encore Azaleas? We have two Encores’ that have a white scale on many of the branches especially the ones closet to the ground. There are no flowers on the lower part of the Encores. There are small flowers on the top area, but not very many. There are not many new leaves/growth. Any suggestions?

 

Answer There are numerous types of scale, and some do affect azaleas.  The azalea felt scale is white and can build up enough to cause damage.  The systemic insecticides will work on these just like on the camellia.  Although an organic approach such as dormant oil can be effective, it is hard to get thorough coverage on an evergreen shrub.  Remember, once the scale insects die, they usually don’t fall off, but increased vigor should be seen on the plants in the spring.  


October 2012

QuestionI have several mature azaleas on the north side of my house. They look healthy except for a few vertical sections where the leaves have turned pale, almost yellow, and slightly dry to the touch. They were well watered during the dry summer. What do I need to do?

 

AnswerMany plants have struggled in our horribly hot and dry summer, and azaleas probably top the list. That being said, we have been on warp speed all growing season with no winter, an early spring and a hot, dry summer. Many spring flowering plants set their flower buds early and have gone into fall early. Evergreen shrubs do shed old leaves from time to time. Some species shed a few all the time—think southern magnolia, while other can shed all their old leaves all at once. Many azaleas and gardenias fall into the latter category and shed old leaves en masse. White or light pink flowering varieties are most dramatic with the old leaves turning a bright yellow before they fall. Often this occurs in November or December, but I have begun to see it already this early. Inspect your plants—if the yellow leaves are further down the stem, then don’t worry. If the yellow leaves extend to the tip of the branch, then something else is happening. Check drainage, insect damage, etc.


December 2012

QuestionI have a couple of encore azalea plants that I would like to move to different spots in my flower bed. Is now the time to transplant them or is there a better time? I've heard that fall is a good time for planting but I didn't know about transplanting. The azalea bushes have several years’ growth on them so they are not new plants. Also when is the best time to prune azaleas?

 

AnswerFall is a great time for planting hardy trees and shrubs, but more tender plants I prefer to wait until winter weather is over before transplanting or moving. If the site they are in is really bad for the plant, I would take my chances and move them. If you just need to relocate them, I would wait until spring. Azaleas can struggle in a particularly cold winter, and will be hardier with an intact root system. If we could only look in the crystal ball and know what kind of winter we will have, it would make life easier. Last year they would have thrived with a fall planting since we had no winter, but you just never know.


December 2012

QuestionOur azaleas have scale. We cannot get rid of them with regular sprays. I started spraying in early spring, and no matter what, it got no better. What can we do?

 

AnswerOne thing to be aware of is that once you kill scale insects, the dead scale don’t go away on the leaves they were feeding on, they are simply dead. You should see increased vigor in the plant and no new signs of scale on other foliage. Scale insects are called “scale” because they form an outer coating that acts as a shield or protection from contact insecticides and other predators. Typically we have to use a systemic insecticide that works from the inside out to control them. Orthene is one that is common, another is Imidacloprid, commonly called Merit or Bayer Advanced tree and shrub insecticide. An older formulation is dormant oil. It really doesn’t contain any chemicals, but it coats the stems and leaves and smothers out the scale. A downside is that you must get thorough coverage, which is difficult with an evergreen shrub.


September 2012

QuestionIs it safe to scatter mothballs under azaleas? We have a dog that keeps digging in the bed and I was hoping this would work to keep him out.

 

AnswerI would not use mothballs. I also don't think it would keep the dog out. If he is digging, lay a sheet of chicken wire under the mulch. He won't like to dig in that, and it will disappear with the mulch.


June 2012

QuestionMy azalea leaves are turning white and gold. When I look at them up close there is nothing on the top, but the bottom leaves have black specks. What can I do to save them? They struggled last summer but I finally thought they were coming out of it and now this! Help.

 

AnswerI think you have a case of lacebugs—the most common insect on azaleas. These insects normally start feeding in May and don’t get to the level they are now until late July or August. Unfortunately, just like everything else, they started their season early and have continued. They begin by feeding on the undersurface of the leaf, sucking sap out of the foliage. In the beginning, you get a few white specks on the upper surface of the leaf. As populations build up, the small white specks merge together and pretty soon the leaf has a white or bronzish appearance. It won’t kill a plant, but heavy infestations do cut down on the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves which can impact overall growth and health. Once the damage is done, those leaves will not re-green, but the new foliage should begin to grow in green and healthy once you control the insects. Orthene or a similar systemic insecticide should slow them down. If you have lacebugs every year, using a product containing imidacloprid (Merit or Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub insecticide) can help in the early spring. Continue to water the plants as needed this summer.


April 2012

QuestionI purchased four Judge Soloman Azalea bushes last spring. They were loaded with buds when I bought them and they had great blooms. This year all of my Azalea bushes are in full bloom, but I can't find a single bud on the Judge Soloman plants. The plants look fine, good color. As you know we had a very mild winter. Two plants are on the west side of my house where other types of Azalea are in full bloom. Two are in a circle with other Azalea and three large pine trees. Some of the plants get full AM sun and filtered sun the rest of the day. Two get filtered sun all afternoon. I use pine needles for mulch but other than that I have not fed them. All other Azaleas got the same treatment and are fine. Can you give me some advice as to why the Judge Soloman did not set buds?

 

AnswerSince the Judge Soloman’s were planted new last spring, it is not unusual for them not to bloom as well the first season. They were busy setting up a root system and surviving our miserable summer last year. If the same thing happens next spring, we need to look further. I do think it is unusual that there isn’t a single bud. It is possible that they bloom a little later, but you should see buds. Care for them this summer and let’s see what happens next spring.


March 2012

QuestionMy home in Colony West faces west and the front beds are empty now that all of the original azaleas have passed away. They were planted in 1970 and extended along the 60 foot front of the bed. There are four large Pine trees directly centered in the front and one very large Pine tree at the southern most part of the front of the house. At the north end of the house is a rather large Holly bush (tree), perhaps standing 10 feet tall. Originally, Holly was placed at each end of the front bed to anchor the beds and the Azaleas residing along the length of the bed. I need your recommendation on a plant/tree/shrub selection and your ideas regarding planting, soil addition, etc. I need something hardy that will last. Also, do you think the plants/shrubs/trees sold by the big box stores like are very safe? I think a local nursery would be safer in the long run regarding the viability and health issues of native plants, etc.

 

AnswerYou do need a basic grouping of evergreen plants so that you have something that is green year-round, but adding some deciduous plants can give you great color in the summer. While your yard faces west, it sounds like the pine trees shade it from intense sun. If you like azaleas, by all means replace some. There are numerous plants that you can choose from and diversity is good. I like to have something blooming in every season. Possibly sasanqua camellias for winter, azaleas and loropetalums for spring color and Itea and buddleia for summer blooms. Take pictures of your front yard and do a sketch of your yard on graph paper. Take that to your local nursery and they can help you plan how many plants you need and can give you other options. You don’t have to buy everything from a nursery, but if there are specific plants or varieties you want, independent nurseries usually have better selections.


February 2012

QuestionI have a large landscape azalea on the south side of our home that is about 5 1/2 feet tall. It is about 35 years old and blooms beautifully every year. We lost one bush next to this one last year and had to cut it down. We have a bird feeder about 25 feet from the bush . The birds eat and then fly into the azalea and leave their drippings. Is there any way we can protect the azalea other than remove the bird house?

 

AnswerIf you feed them, they will come! I don’t really see how you can prevent the birds from taking shelter in plants near a bird feeder. If you really think this is an issue, I would suggest moving the feeder to a different part of the yard. You might also avoid certain types of birdseed. Sunflower seeds can have what is called an allelopathic reaction to certain plants—that is why you often don’t see a lot of growth directly under a bird feeder. Allelopathic reactions occur when a plant such as sunflower gives off a substance via its seeds and roots, which can inhibit the growth of other plants. I have never known it to kill an azalea bush.


December 2011

QuestionI have an azalea bush that I would like to transplant. Would it be alright to transplant it now or should I wait until spring?

 

AnswerIf we could look in a crystal ball and predict what kind of winter we were going to have, it would make the decision a whole lot easier. My preference is to wait until late winter or early spring to get through the bulk of the winter. Azaleas are shallow rooted plants and would be more winter hardy with an intact root system. If it is in a poor location that could lead to death if not moved, then go ahead and do so. If you can wait, then do so. The dormant or transplant season is considered from November through February, but plant hardiness does need to be considered.


December 2011

QuestionMy azaleas are turning yellow. Is this a disease or deficiency of some kind? I have several varieties and all are turning yellow.

 

AnswerLook around at other yards and you will see you aren’t alone. This is a common problem every year. Even though the azaleas are evergreen, they shed old leaves annually. Light pink and white azaleas turn yellow before their leaf shed, while darker flowering forms usually turn reddish shades. It looks alarming since it is so all encompassing, but if you look closely, the leaves closest to the tips of the branches and the flower buds are still intact.


February 2011

QuestionI am enclosing some pictures from my son's yard in North Little Rock. He bought the house in July. There is a large tree in the yard and closer to the house, right in front of the porch are large Azaleas. They look like they have been there many years. Some of them are dying. I am enclosing pictures of the diseased ones. Is there any way to save them? The last picture is from my house in North Little Rock. My husband says they are supposed to turn that dark purple. Only a small bit of mine are the dark purple. The rest of the plants are green. I treat mine with Bayer 12 month tree and shrub protect and feed when I see lace bugs on them. However I think what my son has is Rust? And the Bayer does not say it treats Rust. Help.

 

AnswerFrom the pictures, the azaleas look fairly healthy—especially yours. If you grow dark pink, red or purple azaleas, they should take on a dark reddish color for the winter. Some varieties do this more than others, but should turn every year--this is their natural winter color. Even the plants from your son’s yard look like they still have ample foliage and flowers on the tip of the branch. I do think there is some lacebug damage, and the plants look a bit sparse closer down the branch. Allow them to bloom this spring and then selectively prune the branches to encourage more fullness. When the pruning is done by an electric hedge trimmer, all the growth begins at the tips of the branches. Selective pruning lets you cut each branch to a different length, which should encourage fuller foliage and a fuller flowering plant. The Bayer product you are using is only for insects, it will not control diseases. I would suggest that you monitor the new foliage and see if there is damage when it begins to grow. Last summer was miserable for our plants, and if the house was for sale, chances are, no one was taking care of the plants, so they may be struggling. If the new growth comes out with spots or doesn’t begin growing well, take a sample to your local county extension office for correct diagnosis, before spraying. You could also bring some samples of the branches to the Arkansas Flower & Garden Show at the Statehouse Convention Center in LR Feb.25-27. Our plant pathologist Sherrie Smith will be there with her microscope and can give you her diagnosis. Sherrie will be in our extension garden on the show floor. You will have to buy a ticket to get in, but there is plenty to see and do.


February 2011

QuestionI have a bunch of Encore azaleas that have bloomed every year since I planted them 2-3 years ago. The problem is they haven’t thrived. I took a cutting to a nursery and a guy there told me that the leaves were burnt. Is it possible that these azaleas are planted too close to the white siding of my house that the afternoon sun is being reflected onto these azaleas and burning them?

 

AnswerEncore azaleas can tolerate more sunlight, but they do like water. Last summer took its toll on many plants. If they weren’t watered well, they could have been burned. Winter damage can also cause burned leaves. Wait and see what happens this spring as they start growing, then assess the damage and prune them then. Make sure they are mulched and watered, and fertilize them after the first bloom and see how they do.


October 2010

QuestionShould I fertilize my Encore Azaleas now or wait until spring? They are blooming very well at the present time.

 

AnswerEven though your Encore azaleas are blooming nicely now, we do NOT want to prune or fertilize them. Fertilizing them could encourage tender new growth that would not overwinter well. The only thing you should do now is enjoy the blooms and water when dry. Fertilize them in the spring after they bloom, and you can apply a second application about 6-8 weeks after the first one.


November 2010

QuestionHave the wholesale growers all stopped growing the traditional azalea varieties? (I mean things like Hino, Snow, Coral Bells, Formosa, etc.) All I have seen at local nurseries and stores the past two years are the "Encore" azaleas which are three times as expensive as the older varieties.

 

AnswerNo, most nurseries still carry a fairly good collection of azalea varieties. They often push the Encore types in the fall because of their rebloomability in the fall. In the spring, when the azaleas are all in bloom, you should see a huge selection of varieties, including the old standbys. Spring is a much better time to plant azaleas anyway, in case we have cold weather.


July 2010

QuestionHELP, my azaleas are dying! We have well established azaleas, planted in 1995 and now they are dying. It started last year with one or two and now several are going. We live in mid-town, Little Rock, and have a sprinkler system. Our house faces South and the azaleas are across the front and back. The ones in the front started first and now the ones in the back are affected. We trimmed them back this year and fertilized, however we have not removed old mulch. The leaves turn yellow and sections of the plant dies first, then the whole plant. I have not seen any sign of insects. The watering system is set for 3 times a week at 10 minutes each time. Am I watering too much? Could there be disease from the old mulch?

 

AnswerTo properly identify what is going on, take one of the dying plants or at least a portion of the stems plus roots to your local county extension office so they can send it into our disease diagnostic lab. There are several diseases it could be but we need to know for sure what is causing the problem before you start trying to control it. I think watering for only 10 minutes three times a week is wetting the soil surface more than deeply wetting the soil. The goal in watering is to water deeply and infrequently. Soil type, amount of sunlight, and what you are growing are all factors in frequency and duration of watering


April 2010

QuestionI hope you can help me with this problem. I have several very old azaleas. They are over 50 years old and probably eight feet tall. I know they should have been trimmed long ago, but they have been so beautiful. Now, however, there are a lot of dead looking limbs underneath the leaves. The green leaves form a canopy over the dead limbs. My questions are should I trim them and if so, how far back? When should I trim and should I fertilize? They still bloom well and should bloom sometime in April.

 

AnswerThere is absolutely nothing wrong with old azaleas being eight feet tall--if there is room for them to grow that large and it isn't covering up a window. If you have ever been to Callaway Gardens in Georgia, they are much larger than that and absolutely spectacular in bloom, so don't beat yourself up about not having pruned them. If the plants are having issues now, then pruning this year may be called for. Allow the plants to finish blooming before you start pruning. Then do selective thinning of branches, removing any dead wood and then deciding on where new growth needs to go. Pruning can help get the bushes full again and can direct growth in areas that you need it. Try not to remove more than one third of the plant, but follow up with azalea fertilizer and water as needed to aid in recovery.


April 2010

QuestionI've heard that wild violets can take over flower beds. Will they hurt azaleas? I've also heard that azaleas don't like to be disturbed. Is it ok to pull weeds under the azaleas or should I just keep them trimmed?

 

AnswerWild violets are tenacious and can spread quite rapidly. Many folks enjoy the colorful flowers in the spring, but despise the foliage all summer. I really don’t think violets will hurt your azaleas that badly, although a few this year will multiply to many more next year. Violets along with any other weed can compete for water and nutrition, but they are shallow rooted. That is probably why you heard azaleas don’t like to be disturbed, their shallow roots make them more susceptible to damage from groundcovers or other plant competition. Violets have a small underground corm or bulb which aids in their spread. Pulling them out or hoeing would be better than just trimming and would not hurt your azaleas.


April 2008

QuestionLast spring we planted a row of Formosa azaleas on the north side of our house. This spring only half of them bloomed. Can you offer an explanation and a suggestion to correct this?

 

AnswerFirst of all, don’t gauge how well a plant blooms and grows its first season in the ground. Oftentimes, plants will spend time establishing a root system the first year, and really kick in and grow the second season on. That is a good thing. Do make sure the plants are healthy and growing this season. Fertilize now and keep them watered when dry. The north side of the house is fine for growing azaleas, as long as they get some sunlight during the day. Azaleas are considered under-story plants—they like filtered sunlight or morning sun. If some of them are in more shade than the others, they may not bloom as well.


May 2008

QuestionI live in Northwest Arkansas and would like to plant some shrubs and trees in my new yard, but I will be leaving soon to spend the summer back up north. Is it ok to plant now, water well and mulch and still have plants left when I return, or should I wait until I come back this fall to plant? Since I am gone all summer, I prefer plants that bloom in the spring or fall. I love azaleas, dogwoods and rhododendrons.

 

AnswerIf you plan to leave every summer, then invest in a good sprinkler system with a timer, and have a friend or neighbor check to make sure it is working. While there are drought tolerant plants, it is a rare summer that we can go an entire summer season without supplemental watering. New plants, regardless of their drought hardiness once established, must have regular watering the first year they are planted. I prefer to plant azaleas in the spring and early summer, however, no newly planted plant would survive a month without water in the summer, much less the entire summer, if we have no natural rainfall. Rhododendrons are best planted in the fall, as are dogwood trees. Fall planting is preferable for many plants, but don’t plant any of these unless you have an irrigation system. None of the plants you mentioned are drought tolerant.


April 2007

QuestionI have a pink azalea bush. Usually it is loaded with beautiful blooms every year. This year, it only had four flowers on it. I have a red azalea right next to it and it's full of blooms. Wonder why the pink one didn't bloom this year and the red one did? I've talked to others and they have the same problem.

 

AnswerLast year, many folks did not have a great azalea season, since our winter was extremely dry. This year, we had more than enough rainfall, but we did get some low temperatures and some parts of the state experienced some ice and winter precipitation. I have had several folks tell me their plants look a little peaked. Some varieties of azaleas are more winter hardy than others, so your pink one may be less so than the red ones. Check to see if you have flower buds on the plant. Some may have set that simply failed to open. Allow all your plants to have a chance to bloom, and then prune out any dead wood or extra growth as needed. Fertilize with an azalea fertilizer and apply new mulch, making sure you don’t pile the mulch up next to the trunks. Water as needed this summer and see how they grow. One or two bad years may occur due to weather related issues, insect attacks or disease. As long as you give it a little tender care this summer, it should bounce back and return to good blooming again next spring.


March 2005

QuestionI am a novice gardener, and am trying to take care of a yard that is loaded with plants—not of my planting. What can you tell me about care and culture for the following: abelia, hydrangea, azaleas, and a yellow rose of Texas? I have them all and don’t know when to prune, how to prune, and what to fertilize with. Help! M. Smith, Hope

 

AnswerLet’s start alphabetically. Abelia plants are old-fashioned shrubs that bloom pretty much all summer long, with small white bell shaped blossoms. They require very little care. If the plants are overgrown, or need pruning, you can still do it now. They bloom on the new growth. Azaleas have their flower buds set. These popular shrubs do best in a well drained, well amended site preferably protected from the hot, afternoon sun. Morning sun or filtered light is best. Prune as needed after bloom, and fertilize then as well with an azalea fertilizer. They will need supplemental watering throughout the summer, as will the hydrangeas. Hydrangeas are a little odd, in that they bloom in the summer, but set flower buds in the fall. If any pruning is needed, it needs to be done as soon after flowering as possible in the summer. They have multiple canes instead of a single trunk. Thin out some of the taller, older canes to reduce size. Fertilize as growth begins this spring, and again lightly after bloom. The yellow rose of Texas, is Kerria japonica, another old-fashioned spring bloomer. The double-flowered form is most common and can bloom several times a season. This plant can begin to spread out in time, sending up suckers which may need to be thinned. Prune as needed after the first flush of flowers in the spring—again thinning cuts down low, and possible sucker removal. Other than that, it too needs little care.


February 2005

QuestionI have several very old azaleas that I want to move from one flowerbed to another. When is the best time to transplant and what is the best way to transplant?

 

AnswerAzaleas have very shallow root systems, compared to many other shrubs. This makes them somewhat easier to move. You have two options. One is to move them at the end of this month, getting as large of a root ball as you can manage. You may lose some of your flowers by doing it before bloom, but it can be done. The other option would be to move them immediately following flowering. If you need to do any pruning, it could be done before you move them. Try to match the conditions they are currently growing in. If you move them after bloom, don’t be surprised if they wilt badly for a few days. Keep them watered and mulched and they should bounce back as the roots begin to take hold. No fertilizer in the planting hole, but do try to plant them in a well drained, well amended soil.


April 2005

QuestionI have four azaleas, three of which have been here twenty years. They have always had a bountiful bloom until this year. Two of them are blooming, but not as robustly as usual. The third one has less than a dozen blooms and the leaves are dull. The new growth appears hearty, but the older leaves are sickly although I can find no evidence of insects. Suggestions?

 

AnswerYou are probably not alone this spring with less than full blooming azaleas. Many plants were so confused last November/December that they actually were in almost full bloom then. Because of the early blooms late in the fall last year, some of those plants are not as full as we would like. We also seemed to have a little winter damage on some of these plants, which could account for the dull leaves. One other thing to consider on older plants such as yours, is to check and see if the plants are getting planted too deep from the addition of yearly mulch. If the leaves are getting smaller, that can be a problem. Remove some of the older mulch before applying new in the spring. Let them finish their blooming for this spring, then do a light haircut to encourage new growth. Follow with an application of azalea fertilizer and see how their new growth is this summer. Water as needed.


April 2005

QuestionWe recently moved into a home where all the shrubs and landscaping had been allowed to grow without pruning. I have azaleas growing over the top of the house and would like to know how far back you can prune them without hurting them. They need to be cut at least 2 feet. Also is it possible to move a 10 year old dogwood and if so when and how would you do it? I would appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks

 

AnswerBroadleaf plants, such as azaleas can be pruned by one third or more and still come back. I would prune as soon after flowering as possible. When pruning, don’t simply shear them back two feet all the way around—instead, make selective pruning cuts to certain branches. This will allow the plants to fill back in with a more natural shape than having all the growth at one level. Fertilize with an azalea fertilizer after pruning. For the dogwood, it can be moved, but now is not the best time. If you can hold off until fall, that would be ideal. Get as much of a root ball as you can manage. If the tree is too large for you to move, you can hire someone with a tree spade. These make quick work on a larger tree. I still would prefer you do the transplanting during the dormant season—November through early March.


June 2009

QuestionWe have a very unique, 25 years or so old yaupon holly (trimmed and shaped many times) on a terrace with a row of azaleas. The yaupon has "gone ape" among the azaleas, sending out seedlings or sprouts at the soil line which are outgrowing the azaleas. If we can protect the azaleas, can we use Roundup (or your choice) to try to kill them out without affecting the tree? Would painting full-strength Roundup do any good where we cannot spray the foliage and cut back to the ground? We hope to not lose the tree -a conversation piece.

 

AnswerI think your best bet, while not the easiest, is to dig up the sprouts and/or seedlings. If you knew for sure they were coming up from seeds, then a herbicide might work, however they could be root suckers which are attached to the mother tree and could damage it as well. Make a cut beneath the soil line where the plants are coming from the ground line up, mulch and watch for reappearances. Since it is a standard yaupon, they can outgrow your azaleas quite easily.


June 2010

QuestionI hope you can shed some light on my problem. I have a 30 foot azalea bed along the east wall of the garage that has been there for 20 years. It has always done very well, but last fall I noticed the leaves got bronzy. This spring they flowered, but were not as good. I have always pruned about every 3 years so this year it was time. Now they really look dead. I have watered and fertilized. Can you tell from the attached photo's what the problem is, and what I might do about it.

 

AnswerYou had a severe case of lacebug damage on your azaleas. Usually the damage makes the plants look bad, but rarely does it kill them. I just wonder if possibly the excess rain and then cold winter, coupled with the stressed plants, made the damage worse. Did you spray with anything? I would prune them back hard now--take off up to one third or more and then fertilize. Azaleas are broadleaf plants which have dormant buds, so even if they look bare, they can recover, but prune ASAP to allow for recovery time. You can prevent lacebug damage with Imidacloprid (commonly called Merit or Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub Insecticide). Let’s see how they bounce back this growing season.


July 2010

QuestionI did not fertilize my azaleas after their blooms faded this spring as I think you are supposed to. Now with the high temperatures upon us (last week of June) I am wondering if I should. I pruned them after the blooms faded and they look fine to me, and I am giving them adequate watering. The plants are Coral Belle variety and they are about two to three feet tall with about that much spread. They are roughly 12 years old. I also have another group that I planted this spring which are white Gumpo. They are little more than the 2-3 gallon pot size that I bought. These will also be 2-3 feet high and spread when mature. These are also looking good and are being well watered. What do you think, should I fertilize now or skip this year?

 

AnswerOne application of fertilizer per year is usually recommended for azaleas, typically right after pruning or after bloom in the spring. Some recommend multiple doses, but I think that is overkill, pushing the plants too much. It is not going to grossly impact your plants if they skip a year of fertilization (especially since yours seem to be doing quite well), but I also think you could still fertilize now, if you choose to. The key is to apply the fertilizer at a low rate and make sure the plants are well watered the day before. Water lightly after fertilizing as well. We don't want to add fertilizer to drought stricken plants or they can get burned. Water the fertilizer in after application, and keep up with watering needs. Try to work early in the day for your sake as well as the plants.


July 2010

QuestionIs it too late to drastically prune azaleas without interfering with their blooming next spring? Same question about loropetalums.

 

AnswerI prefer to get the pruning done as soon after flowering in the spring as possible on both plants so they can recover and set plenty of flower buds in late August-September. June was so miserably hot that it did not encourage a lot of new growth. Usually July is not a great month for new growth due to heat, humidity and lack of rainfall. It all depends on the summer. Severe pruning is definitely out of the question, but even light pruning is discouraged past mid June, especially if it is really hot. If you can, wait until next spring. If you have to prune do as little as possible and do so ASAP and keep up with water needs.


July 2010

QuestionThe leaves on my azaleas are turning white. I do not know how or what to do to them. I do not want to lose them. Help!

 

AnswerCheck the backs of the leaves. I would bet they have small black or brown specks there and are rough to the touch. Lacebugs are the culprit. These tiny insects have translucent lace-like wings and feed on the undersurface of azaleas. As they feed, they suck sap out of the foliage. The beginning infestations leave a few white specks on the surface, but repeated feeding gives the overall surface of the leaf a white or silverish appearance. Left unchecked there are numerous generations each season. Spraying now with a systemic insecticide such as Orthene can slow them down. If you get the problem every year, try a preventative treatment of Imidacloprid next spring or early summer. This systemic insecticide is applied around the drip line of the shrub, absorbed by the plant, and should give you a season free of the problem. The damage that has been done to your plants will not go away, but you should not see new damage after spraying.


February 2010

QuestionIs it necessary to cover azaleas with sheets especially when they have buds and are fixing to bloom and they predict a frost?

 

AnswerI would be surprised if any azaleas were getting ready to bloom now. Flower buds were set back in late summer to early fall, but while dormant, they should be ok. Temperatures have dipped lower than we have seen in fifteen years, and depending on the variety of azalea, there could be some damage to the buds and possibly overall plants, but we need to wait for spring to assess that damage. Sheets give you two to four degrees of protection and can be worthwhile when the flowers are showing color and/or open and a late frost is predicted. I would not cover off and on all winter.


July 2008

QuestionWe have a row of encore azaleas---all were growing and doing well until about two weeks ago. The one on the end started wilting and although we dug it up and put it in full shade, it died. Now another one is doing the same thing. The ones on either side are doing well. We see no signs of lacebugs, gall, mold, etc. All are watered etc the same and rest of them still look healthy. What could be the cause? Is there anything we can do to prevent losing this one too?

 

AnswerThe problems you mention, lacebugs and galls, would not kill an azalea plant. When you dug the plant up, what did the roots look like? Were they standing in water, were they healthy and spread out or were they brown and gummy? Azaleas like water, but can't stand too much. Poorly drained soils can lead to a quick death. Girdling of the trunk can be an issue. You don't mention how long the plants have been in the ground. That would be helpful as well. If the plants were planted too deep in the ground, this can also lead to a quick death. Investigate a bit more.


December 2007

QuestionI think my azaleas are dying. They are all yellow. I have been busy and haven’t been paying attention to the yard, so I don’t know when this dieback began, but is there anything I can do to salvage them? They are about six years old and have grown well before now.

 

AnswerThis is usually something that happens every year about this time—it is the shedding of the old leaves. While some varieties shed leaves gradually without the dramatic leaf color change, other varieties turn bright yellow before the old leaves fall. Often times it is the white or light pink varieties that are the most dramatic. Look closely at your plants and I bet you will find the leaves that are yellow are the older leaves, further back on the stems, while the newer leaves are green, and the flower buds intact for next spring.


October 2007

QuestionI have 8 encore azaleas in the front flower bed. Seven of them have done well over the past 5 years but one of them I have had to replace 3 times since every one has died in that location. I have read how to plant azaleas to make sure that each time I have planted them correctly. The plant in question is right over where the main water line goes into my house and was wondering if that might have any affect on the azalea. I do not see any water each time I have planted a new one. Is there anything I could do to make that one area acceptable for an azalea and if not what do you suggest I plant in that location that would go with my other 7 azaleas.

 

AnswerI think you first need to find out what is wrong with the site before you put any more plants in. There should be no water leaking out of your water line—or that would be a problem. If you see no water in the planting hole when you pull up the dead plant that is good, but do test the drainage. Dig a hole the depth you would plant an azalea there and fill it with water until the water stands. Then time it to see how long it takes to drain. If there is still standing water after 6 hours, azaleas would struggle. If you do determine that water is a factor, see if you can redirect water or try raising the planting level. If water is not a factor, take a soil sample from the area where the azaleas are thriving and a separate sample from where it is dying--then compare. I would not plant anything else until a little more investigating is done.


May 2007

QuestionI have an azalea that has the problem of waxy leaves that you wrote about earlier. The leaves get thick and waxy and malformed. It had no blooms this year. I pruned it severely and used 13-13-13 fertilizer. New shoots are coming out, but some of the leaves appear to be getting thick and waxy. I am pulling them off immediately. Can I expect blooms next year or is this plant a goner?

 

AnswerAzalea leaf gall is a disease that usually looks worse than it actually is. The disease starts out with a few leaves getting thick and waxy and usually a bright green in color. Over time they turn whitish with disease spores accumulating. The key is to prune them off as soon as you see the problem to prevent disease spores from forming. The spores don’t affect the plants this season, but come back to haunt the plants the following spring. Now that the temperatures are warming up, the disease should actually stop. This is a disease that is active during cool, wet weather. It should not have kept your azaleas from blooming. Fertilize once more in mid June and keep the plants watered, and hopefully they will set plenty of flower buds. We have had two seasons where azaleas did not bloom to their normal potential—the winter of 2005 was warm and dry which caused some flowers to abort, and this year the late freeze damaged many azalea blooms.


May 2006

QuestionMy azaleas weren’t their best this spring, but I wrote that off to the weird winter. Now I have numerous leaves that look like thick growths are taking over. Is this what caused the flowers to be less showy and is it going to kill my plant? Is there a spray I should be using?

 

AnswerAzalea leaf gall is beginning to appear after our recent bout with cool, wet weather. This fungal disease is short-lived and looks much worse than it actually is. It starts out looking like someone poured candle wax on the leaves. They get quite thick and fleshy. If left alone, they will turn from light green to white or gray. No sprays are needed, nor will help. Simply snap off the damaged leaves and dispose of them. Once the weather warms up the disease will stop. It really doesn’t hurt an established plant, and is not responsible for less blooms this spring—you were right the first time—our weird winter weather (dry and warm) did cause some flowers to be aborted.


April 2006

QuestionMy azaleas did not bloom this year. Do I need to cut them back to the ground? Do I need to move them? They are about 15 years old.

 

AnswerMany people have had less than stellar results from their azaleas this spring. Last summer and this winter were particularly dry. If they got dry this winter, they may have lost their flower buds. If your plants have done well in the past, I wouldn’t worry too much -- nor would I move them or severely prune. It was not a kind season for azaleas -- they like regular moisture. As long as they get some filtered sunlight, fertilize now and keep them watered and see what happens next year. If the plants have gotten too large, or are leggy, then prune now if needed, but only prune if there is a need to.


March 2006

QuestionI need some pruning advice please? I recently bought a house and all the plants are very overgrown. I am not sure how much to cut them back. For instance, there are two very large Camellias’ in the front. They are so big that they are covering up half of the kitchen window. I am not sure how big they are supposed to be but the trunk or stalk of the plants are tall enough that I will have to cut the majority of leaves and branches off to get them to a reasonable size. Does that make sense? Do you know how tall they are supposed to be? Also, I'm not sure how much to cut back my azaleas. I know I am to wait until they have finished blooming but when it is time; can I cut them way back too?

 

AnswerCamellias can grow quite large, depending on the variety. It would have been preferable to have them planted in a location where they could be allowed to grow to their full capacity, but unfortunately, that isn't the case here. You can prune them back to bare branches, and they will sprout back, but it will take awhile. It is best if you can limit pruning to no more than one third of the plants size each season, but an occasional hard pruning job can be done. Broadleaf plants have dormant buds on the old wood, which will sprout out after pruning. It won't look pretty for awhile as it recovers. For your azaleas, prune as soon after flowering as possible. For both plants, it is best not to shear them but to selectively thin branches to get a more fully leafed out plant profile.


June 2005

QuestionWe will be remodeling our home this summer. I have azaleas planted where the construction work will be done. Can they be moved? Some, but not all, of the azaleas have been in their current location for twenty years. Can they, too, be moved? They are healthy plants, and I would like to keep them. What do I need to do to prepare them for a move?

 

AnswerI would try to get them lifted and transplanted now before the weather really gets hot. If you plan to relocate them back after construction, simply build a holding bed in the shade. Till up the soil, add some compost and basically "heel" them in. You place the plants close together slightly in the ground and slightly above, then mulch heavily. Keep well watered. Azaleas have shallow, fibrous root systems, so they are easy to move, but moving plants during the heat is not ideal. Pay close attention to water needs all summer. Don't be alarmed if the plants wilt daily for awhile, but get them moved as soon as you can. Of course, the older the plant, the tougher the transition, but it is possible with good care that they will do fine. No fertilizer this season. Replant in a permanent location as soon as it is feasible.


April 2005

QuestionIn the middle of a row of about 15 established azaleas in my front yard, one plant has been slowly dying over the past year or so. The shrub in front of it is dying, too, and I thought I might need to submit a soil sample from this area and one from an area where the shrubs are healthy. How do I do this? I have not been able to find the instructions on the Extension website.

 

AnswerI think you have the right idea. To take a soil test, get a pint of soil from the areas root zone. Since we are testing a specific site, you don't have to take multiple samples of soil and mix them together, as we would if testing the entire yard. For this, test the good area and the bad area, then compare. Take the samples to your local county extension office. You should have your results back in approximately two weeks. Also check the physical site characteristics--drainage, rocks, low area, etc.


December 2005

QuestionWhen is the correct time to move azaleas? I would like to relocate two or three plants. What causes the azalea plants to have dead branches on them?

 

AnswerWhile we are in the midst of the dormant period, which is often used as the transplant season, I would wait until closer to spring to move azaleas. Azaleas will be more winter hardy with an established root system. Let them survive the bulk of the winter and move in late February through mid March. If you have early bloomers, you may want to wait until immediately after bloom to move them. Azaleas are very shallow-rooted plants and fairly easy to move in-tact. Die back can be caused by several things, including disease, drought stress and too much mulch. Cut out the damaged wood when you see it, and make sure you water when dry.


December 2005

QuestionMy azaleas have leaves that are turning yellow. It is mainly the bushes in the middle of a long strip of azaleas. I have Crepe Myrtles and a Dogwood along the same long bed and they are not showing any stress. I know I should not fertilize them, but what should I do?

 

AnswerThis happens every year. It is particularly evident on the larger flowering white varieties. It is the old leaf shed. Even though a plant is evergreen it does lose leaves periodically. With some plants the leaf shed is gradual and you lose leaves throughout the season. With other plants, it is more dramatic--all the old leaves shed at once, turning yellow or red in the process. Don't be concerned, there is nothing you should be doing or have done wrong. As soon as the leaves fall, you won't notice it any more.


April 2005

QuestionA nursery was telling me something about Encore azaleas - a relatively new type of azalea that supposedly blooms three times a year (spring, summer and fall). Are there any weaknesses or oddities that one needs to watch out with these? Any tips for a recreational gardener?

 

AnswerI wouldn't say they are three season bloomers. Typically they bloom spring and fall, with a staggered bloom off and on during the rest of the growing season. They do give you two seasons of interest, but are often not as full of blooms in the spring, as the spring-only plants. Their fall bloom is usually fairly reliable. Not all varieties are hardy in the northern third of the state, but I do think they are a nice addition to the landscape, and you have some good colors to choose from. They need the same conditions as other azaleas, well-drained soil, acidic pH and a rich site. Water when dry and give them at least three to four hours of sunlight a day. Filtered sun or morning sun is best.


April 2005

QuestionIn the middle of a row of about 15 established azaleas in my front yard, one plant has been slowly dying over the past year or so. The shrub in front of it is dying, too, and I thought I might need to submit a soil sample from this area and one from an area where the shrubs are healthy. How do I do this? I have not been able to find the instructions on the Extension website.

 

AnswerI think you have the right idea. To take a soil test, get a pint of soil from the areas root zone. Since we are testing a specific site, you don't have to take multiple samples of soil and mix them together, as we would if testing the entire yard. For this, test the good area and the bad area, then compare. Take the samples to your local county extension office. You should have your results back in approximately two weeks. Also check the physical site characteristics--drainage, rocks, low area, etc.


 

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