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When to prune azaleas

POSTED: May 1, 2013 4:00 a.m.

Azaleas are a staple of traditional southern landscapes.

They are prized for their graceful form and showy flower displays. They are also known for the variety of colors and bloom types available.

There are several-hundred registered azalea varieties, and hobbyist hybridizers have created many more in their own gardens. You can find an azalea bloom in just about any color imaginable.

There are many different types of azaleas: Evergreen, deciduous, native and non-native, just to name a few.

Most of the azaleas I encounter in north Georgia are the spring-flowering varieties. These azaleas will usually begin blooming in March or April, depending on weather conditions, and will end the bloom period in April or early May.

The best time to prune your azaleas is after they bloom. You can prune them immediately after bloom, or you can wait until late June if you must. Azaleas normally set new flower buds for next year's blooms in summertime.

In Georgia, it is recommended you wait no later than July 1 to complete your pruning. This gives your azaleas time to recover before setting blooms for next spring's flower show.

It may be necessary later in the year to prune your azaleas for aesthetic purposes. They will often have long, unsightly branches late in the season which won't produce flower buds and will need to be taken out.

Young azaleas can be pruned several times in their first few years of growth to achieve desired canopy and overall plant form.

Pruning the tips of branches after five to six inches of new growth will encourage more branching. This will result in a lush canopy and more blooms.

Only prune your azaleas if there is a real need. It is best to use hand pruners or two-handed loppers to make most of your pruning cuts.

Avoid the urge to fire up the mechanical hedge trimmers when pruning azaleas.

In my opinion, their natural form is a big part of their beauty, and hedgers aren't conducive to maintaining that look.

If your azalea bushes are overgrown or need rejuvenation, they can be cut back six to 12 inches from the ground. Healthy plants should respond with many new shoots sprouting from the old wood.

The best time to fertilize your azaleas is also just after they bloom. Azaleas can be easily damaged by excess fertilizing, so it is best to use caution. Most azaleas seem able to obtain needed nutrients from the surrounding decaying soil matter.

If you think your azaleas need fertilizer, it is best to consult the results of a soil test.

Specialty fertilizer is available which is formulated to the needs of azaleas and camellias.

Consult the manufacturer's packaging for application rates.

Broadcast the fertilizer over an area six inches from the trunk to just beyond the edge of the canopy.

Always apply fertilizer to azaleas when they are dry. Excess granules or liquid can get into leaf buds and burn them. Always brush off or wash away excess fertilizer after application.

Follow these tips to enjoy more blooms and healthier plants next spring.




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