Help revitalize dying azaleas
Hey everyone -
I live in Marietta, Georgia. When we bought our house about four years ago, we had some nice azalea bushes on the west-facing front of our house. They get full sun in the afternoon. Being a first time homeowner, I didn't know what we had, so I shaped the azaleas with electric pruning shears before they bloomed that year (consequently we got no blossoms).
By the second year, I had figured out I needed to take better care of my yard and landscaping, and I'd identified my bushes as azaleas. I left them alone and they bloomed nicely (all pink, incidentally). Then came the 2008-2009 drought years. The bushes continued to bloom, but by the end of last summer, the middle of my azaleas had died back and most of the remaining bushes were rust-colored, almost like fall leaves.
I pruned out the dead sections last summer and as of now I do have some re-growth from lower down on the remaining plants that looks like it will eventually fill in the hole. The new growth is bright rhododendron green. However, all of the older limbs on the main body of my bushes are this dried, rusty color. Some smaller bushes that are not as tightly clustered with the mass actually have a green color still.
My question is, what can I do to nurse my azaleas back to green health? I have made an assumption that the bushes could be infested with either mites or fungus or both, so the other day I sprayed Malathion (which worked wonders on our adjacent juniper bushes, which had spider mites, last year), and also sprayed a copper-based fungicide. Finally, I sprinkled the ground with azalea food fertilizer, and pushed as much mulch back up around the area as I could.
So what should I do now? Adopt a wait-and-see approach? Feed again when it warms up? Prune more off? Dig them out and start over?
Thank you very much for your help,