Azaleas pruned in winter

Kattie123(9)January 23, 2013

Help! My gardner pruned my azaleas yesterday in the middle of winter! I am sick about it. Some buds are left but my goal is to put my house on the market as soon as they flower for the awe of my beautiful garden to help sell the house. I have always hand pruned. My rule is that they do NOT trim any plant unless I ask them too. Unfortunately he pruned a number of plants including all my azaleas when I wasn't looking! Is there anything I can I do to super stimulate their growth for spring? I can tent some of them to protect them from the occasional freezing and frost we experience until early April.

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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

They won't bloom no matter what you do unless he missed a some buds. All of the buds were formed at the beginning of last summer at the ends of branches, so any branches he trimmed will not bloom.

They will send out green shoots. If they are encore azaleas or a similar reblooming type, they will start blooming in mid summer like the rebloomers normally do when the start reblooming.

A second problem is that pruning my cause the plant to break dormancy and start vegetative growth. This tender vegetative growth can freeze back unless you do protect it from frosts. But that will not help the no-bloom situation.

If he just cut back the ends of longer stems that would need pruning and didn't shear the entire plant with a hedge pruner, you may still have flowers and it may actually look better.

You want the azaleas to remain dormant until next spring, so don't tent them unless they actually are breaking dormancy. Tenting will increase the tendency to break dormancy. Actually, you don't tent in a manner that would trap heat like a greenhouse. It would be best to use a burlap wrap on the sides and just cover the open top with a towel or something at night. The object is to keep them cool through the winter but to avoid hard freezes if and when they start showing any new growth.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 4:01PM
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Thank you for your feedback. I saw two plants in the front that are cut back significantly but the others have SOME buds left. Being it is mid January, we will continue to see freezing temps before Spring. It's ok to cover the sides until April and cover the top for periods of freezing? The foliage will be ok with burlap for that long a period of time? My azaleas and rhodies are significant to my landscape and to think of the damage the gardner did makes me ill.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 12:55AM
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Covering them is probably is not necessary if you normally don't have to cover them. Although, plant tissue is less hardy in the area directly adjacent to pruning cuts if made in late fall or winter. So if buds are near pruning cuts, covering might not be a bad idea.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blog post on pruning rhododendrons

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:30PM
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If you know the specific variety of azalea, visit the Azalea Society of America's website @ for specific blooming patterns. It's a great site for the Azalea enthusiast and will offer information specific to zone 9 patterns and what to expect based on weather trends.

As for increasing your blooming for the up-coming season, the warnings regarding new-growth following pruning activity are definitely something to keep in mind, as late freezes can be havoc for early shoots. However, don't be afraid to feed them. Trees and shrubs tend to take the vast majority of their macro nutrients in during winter dormancy and hold it in wait for a temperature change, at which point they reduce their macro nutrient intake while shoot elongation begins with Spring. The specific macro nutrient that will improve blooming is phosphates. I always include phosphates in my late fall and winter root zone injections, and I have yet to be unsatisfied with the results. Quick bloom fertilizers are a good source of phosphates, but the application technique to have success with shrubs is different from flower beds. When applying a liquid quick bloom fertilizer, do not blanket the area around the shrub, because most of the nutrients will be absorbed by the organic matter above the roots (thus the reason professional use injectors). Instead, use a surface drench technique with a square grid pattern starting outside the dripline of the first shrub with points 2 feet apart. Soak each point for a few seconds and move to the next point. Approximately 30% of the nutrients will be caught by the bedding material and organic matter at the surface, but the rest will reach the roots and be taken up by the plant and used in Spring.

Here is a link that might be useful: Serenity Lawn Service

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 5:54PM
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Thank you ja-gardener and Serenity Lawn Service for all the information! I will utilize it.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 9:01PM
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