Azalea woes

emmi331(7)April 21, 2009

I've had a large azalea (rhododendron?) in my back yard since I moved in twelve years ago. It's 5+ feet tall. Since I've been here it has bloomed maybe three times. It usually shows winter burn, then leafs out nicely - but usually with no blooms. This year it's looking really sad - new growth is slow, and needless to say, it shows no signs of flowers. I rarely if ever prune it, but I do fertilize - probably not enough! It's in mostly shade, and we've had lots of moderate drought over the years. Can anyone help? It's spectacular when it does bloom!!

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hello, emmi331. You may want to determine if it is producing flower buds or not. Based on that, you can take appropriate action.

For example, if it does not produce flower buds, it could have some type of soil defficiency (do a soil test), soil pH problem, be planted out of zone or it might not be getting enough sunlight (2-5 hours of morning/dappled sun is good).

If the plant produced flower buds then something happened to them. For example, they could have been killed by drought, zapped by winter temperatures/drying winds or they could have been eaten by wildlife.

Another thing to check is the time of the year when you prune. When you prune, try doing this in the time period after blooming has ended and before flower buds form starting in July-ish. For example, if you were to prune in the Fall, you would be cutting off next years blooms.

And also stop fertilizing in July-ish too as this can keep the plant in growth mode when the plant should actualy be preparing to go dormant in preparation for winter. If the plant stays in growth mode then the buds can be damaged by early winter weather.

To make sure that you do not have soil moisture problems again due to the drought, mulch well up to drip line and water only when the soil feels almost dry to a depth of 4". During dry winters -when the ground does not freeze- water once every two weeks or so.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 3:29AM
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Thanks very much, luis - I appreciate your advice! No, the bush does not even get buds on it, just leafs out. I'll get a soil check done, and see what that says. Luckily, the VA Tech garden extension center is not far away, and I can also get help from them....

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 3:17PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

emmi, too much shade, overfertilization, and drought in summer when buds for flowers would normally be set are the top reasons for failure to bloom - you may be facing all three.

Azaleas need some sun, or at least very bright indirect sun to form flower buds. Dappled shade through a loose tree canopy is perfect but a few hours of morning sun or late afternoon sun can be enough too.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 8:29PM
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