The southern United States is the perfect grow-zone for azaleas; these beautiful flowering plants are a member of the rhododendron family, a shallow-rooted plant that provides spring and summer flowers and year-round foliage in mild climates.
How and when should you prune azaleas? Consider the following advice:
Prune prior to the blooming season.
When pruning your azalea to encourage growth, the best time to prune is before spring growth starts; this ensures that you will still see flowers during the next year’s blooming cycle. It also helps prepare the newly-trimmed growth for the more rigorous winter later on. When thinning plants, you can do this at any time, as needed.
Thin azaleas as needed.
You may need to thin-out your azaleas due to insects, disease, or to remove damaged sections. Thinning also can be used to groom and reduce the size of your plant. Thinning is often used to remove the extender branches that are just beyond the plant’s canopy to maintain a cohesive shape. Thinning-out azaleas still allows for light to reach interior branches, which can increase growth and density of your plant, but this typically does not have a big impact on how your plant blooms. If you are thinning significantly, it is best to do it in the spring.
Heed proper heading technique.
Comparatively, heading your azalea is a technique used to cut back branches to reduce the size of your plant significantly or to create a hedge. This also is used when you want to renew and restore old, untended, or overgrown plants. You can restore and rejuvenate an overlooked azalea by cutting branches back six-to-twelve-inches from the ground, which should result in an abundance of new growth by mid-to-late summer.
Protect your plants with mulch.
Bark mulch protects the root ball and preserves moisture, but it also can help make pruning easier. The mulch prohibits light from reaching the lower trunk and weeds, which can prevent extending branches and twigs that require trimming. Make sure to buy good, organic mulch, when possible, which is found widely in a range of types, such as cedar or black mulch.
Be aware of pests and disease.
When pruning and trimming your azaleas, keep an eye out for insects. The most common pests are spider mites and lace-bugs, but paying attention to water and aeration can help. Planting in the right spot, providing drainage, and watering regularly (twice a week is recommended) can decrease pest problems and subsequent plant damage.
Azaleas are beautiful flowering shrubs that prefer cool, shady spots and that do well when watered a couple times a week, with attention paid to the root ball. Want to know more about rhododendrons for your property? Talk with the experts at your Terra Bella Garden Center in Charleston for assistance in bringing azaleas to your yard.