Answer

Pruning Azaleas

Question

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!

Answer

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.
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