First Winter - Azalea Damage

bveronicoMarch 30, 2014

Well, my six little azaleas have had a tough winter. I took inventory first a few weeks ago and noticed one that had the worst damage, a Lavender Bloom-A-Thon azalea, seemed like it was a gonner. Wilted leaves covered the plant, most were discolored brown and sickly looking. The heavy snows this year had also broken one of it's low and long branches off. The recent deluge of rain though seems to have given it a bit of a lift, but I am not optimistic. I have already planned to purchase a replacement for it.

Of the others, here are three that have varying degrees of damage, one of which looks almost the same as it did six months ago - bright happy green. The others have severe discoloration of the leaves from the outside in and I'm not sure if that is from wind or lack of water or sun, or some combination. I admit I thought with the close buildings on the South and West providing shade and wind-blocks, I did not need to provide further protection beyond mulching with pine bark and crumbled leaves a few inches deep. Live and learn. I just hope these pull through so I don't have to replace more than one plant (the one to be replaced I did not bother with a picture since it's very gone).

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bveronico

Can't figure out how to post more than one pic at a time so here is the second.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 3:03PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

If these just aren't hardy there you should grow them in pots that are placed inside protection during the winter or choose other kinds that are hardy there.

Wind is compressed by walls and rushes along it, hence the use of the term "sheltered wall" when discussing plant placement; when using the extra sun or shade provided by walls to grow marginal plants the location or angling of the wall must also be one that places the plants out of strong winds for the full benefit to be realized.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 3:05PM
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bveronico

And third.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 3:05PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

If these just aren't hardy there you should grow them in pots that are placed inside protection during the winter or choose other kinds that are hardy there.

Wind is compressed by walls and rushes along it, hence the use of the term "sheltered wall" when discussing plant placement; when using the extra sun or shade provided by walls to grow marginal plants the location or angling of the wall must also be one that places the plants out of strong winds for the full benefit to be realized.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 3:06PM
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bveronico

From my research I think the zone is not the problem since Bloom-A-Thons are listed as hardy in zones 6 to 9 and I'm 7b. However, the "Polar Vortex" that hit our region at least twice this winter brought atypical periods of intense, below average cold temperatures for extended periods of time. I think this may have had the largest impact on my poor azaleas and it is just bad timing that they had to go through this their first winter before they could become established. I think the second blow against them was my not watering them more often. I had read so much about not freezing the roots that I was afraid to water if the night temps were going to go below freezing. As a result I only watered twice all winter (they had good soakings in the Fall right up until our second freeze.

Since all are Bloom-A-Thons (well, there are 2 red blooming ones that were sent by mistake but I am guessing they are also B-A-Ts) but they all had different degrees of damage despite being in a row with pretty much the same amount of sun, wind and rain exposure that the problems may have stemmed from the slight variations to each plant in particular. Perhaps some that suffered from lack of water more than others did not have their root ball spread properly, perhaps the one with the worst damage of the three pics posted was affected worse by the nearby concrete wall and patio that the others don't have as close, etc. I am taking notes for the future and continuing to read up whenever possible!

All observations/comments/advice always appreciated. :-)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 4:49PM
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akamainegrower

Actually they look quite good, especially given the severity of this past - let us hope - winter throughout the northeast. There is some leaf browning from wind/sun, but they are clearly alive. Be patient. Once the weather warms, you can prune back to live wood and pinch if you want bushier plants, but even if they do not bloom well they should fill out on their own over the summer.

Making sure they entered the winter with moist soil is important. Watering during the winter itself is just not practical in parts of the country where the ground freezes and is not necessary once they have entered dormancy. The roots of azaleas and rhododendrons remain in the upper level of the soil. The thermal mass of the ground as well as the adaptive mechanisms of the genus protect the roots from freezing damage.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 6:15AM
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MFIX

Glad to see this post. I just unwrapped my rhodie and found a significant amount of browning, and also some dark spots on a few leaves. Definitely due to this last winter. I know it may not be easy to wrap smallish plants, but perhaps next year it would work? There are also some neat "tents" that would probably work too, you can find them at Lowe's etc.. Maybe a little hollytone would be a nice way to give them some added help too. After they bloom, and perhaps a dormant feed in the fall. Anyway, anyone know what the small black spots could be on mine?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 12:26PM
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akamainegrower

There are many possible causes for the spotting. None are usually life threatening. Giving fertilizer to stressed plants is not a good idea unless a soil test shows a real need. In cold climates especially, fertilizer after the end of June is a bad practice. Even if you think the plant is dormant, stimulating late soft growth is a sure way to increase winter damage.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 5:49AM
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MFIX

Is there not a dormant feeding practice for azalea/rhodos? Hollytone even specifies that this is what should be done on their packaging. I know that many of the companies do this so you buy with more regularity so could that be the reason. I always have fed the plant after they bloom in the spring, after deadheading. Perhaps just some compost would be more effective/safer?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 11:51AM
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akamainegrower

Fertilizer after bloom is fine, even though it may not be necessary, especially for larger, well-established plants. A soil test is the only way to know for sure. Compost can also be helpful, but may or may not contain the needed nutrients. Rhododendrons and azaleas are not heavy feeders, so often maintaining a mulch which gradually breaks down is often all that's needed. Again, a soil test is the best way to determine what needs to be done.

There are some advocates for dormant feeding. Trouble is an unexoected warm spell can trigger renewed growth. In any case, it's not at all necessary. Hollytone at about half the recommended rate can be used twice: once in early spring, once after bloom. It's not a substitute for good soil preparation or mulch, but will not do any harm, either.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 6:07AM
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