Azaleas out of hand

platypi007(Zone 8)April 11, 2007

I am living with my grandmother in North Augusta, SC and for the past four or five years the "yard guy" has ignored pretty much everything except a weekly lawn mowing (even through the winter) and leaf blowing. Not even fertilizing of the lawn or trimming any shrubs...

Now that I have taken over this I have been trying to get the yard under control.

There are a number of large azaleas out front and a number the back as well. They have grown huge and bushy over the past few years, not having been trimmed, perhaps, since my grandfather passed away five years ago now...

How much is it recommended that I prune these giants back? Do I need to cut them back drastically and let them start anew or should I try to shape them to a more appropriate size?

Also, there is one bush in the back which has a vine growing in it and this seems to have killed out a large section of it. If I prune this back is it likely to grow out and fill in the empty spot?

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Grass grows year around here too - the problem is finding a week without rain where it is dry enough to mow. :)

Evergreen azaleas?

Healthy evergreen azaleas will normally respond well to hard pruning if it's necessary to rejuvenate them. Unlike rhododendrons, azaleas have growth buds all along their stems just under the bark surface; new growth will originate close to any cut you make.

But, they require little to no pruning - it isn't a regular annual chore - other than removal of weak or dead wood and whatever trim is necessary to keep them shapely. If a compact rather than open plant is desired, you can cut back some of the heavier limbs to a foot or less and strong new shoots will develop to fill in the plant.

You might do a scratch test on the azalea with the vine...scrape a small section of bark and see if there is any life under the bark. (If the section isn't dead, it may resprout once it begins to receive light again.) Remove anything truly dead along with whatever branches you must to keep balance.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 4:24AM
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I would wait to prune them until after they bloom (which is very soon now, right?). No sense cutting off the flowers! After they bloom, prune away!

Try to at least make sure the vine is not poison ivy before you get into the business of removing it and shaping that bush. If it is poison ivy, wear something like rubber kitchen gloves while you remove it and then discard the gloves.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 9:31PM
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platypi007(Zone 8)

The four plants in the back were very much out of control. The branches were very long and leggy, and the bush had grown to be about 5 feet tall, one plant was almost totally dead because of a scupanong vine that had somehow found it's way across our yard from another location and had taken up residence tangled around the poor azalea...

I cut the two other plans in the same area back drastically and cut that one down almost to the ground. There was one bit of live growth on it, so I hope that it will survive.

The plant by the door was gigantic, probably 6 feet in diameter and as tall. I started clipping things out of it and found out that some time ago the lower limbs had grown out, drooped down and touched the bricks on the patio, and taken root through the bricks.

So I had four smaller plants growing on top of the bricks of the patio... And what I discovered was that these branches had decided that since they were getting their life force from a new location they could die and rot off of the base.

I ended up cutting all of that off of the old plant, cutting the old plant back drastically, and using a flat shovel to scrape the four smaller offshoot plants off of the bricks.

Now I need to get rid of all those roots growing under my patio bricks and clear away the dirt that has formed from six years of leaves rotting under the giant plant. I had forgotten my grandparent's patio was so large!

These three plants are the type that have larger leaves and flowers, we have one on the other side of the door with the small leaves and flowers and it has stayed in pretty good shape, I just trimmed it up.

The ones out front should be the same deal as the one I just trimmed some except that they are about 3 feet too tall and are blocking the windows and are growing into the driveway somewhat. But I think that should be a much less drastic task.

Anyway, the back yard now has a ton more light, and I look forward to seeing the azaleas growing to be more bushy and less... giant monsters taking over my back yard. I hope that one that had the life sucked out of it will return.

I was much too exhausted after this to do the front, I'm saving that for Monday.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 8:15PM
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We had this same problem last year, when we purchased our home the azaleas were so high and overgrown, we couldn't see out of the windows inside. My husband cut them back drastically after they bloomed last year (albeit long after bloom), yet there are no blooms this year. Everything else is in bloom, including the azaleas in the back yard. The front azaleas look horrible. They are just large 1-2 foot stumpy looking branches w/maybe one or two flowers on one out of 7 of them. I think he waited too late to cut them maybe? It was almost fall, last year. What to do? Do we need to pull them up and start over? How would we do that considering how huge the roots are now? Forgive me for the newbie question, but I am a new homeowner, and have little knowledge of these things.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 3:23PM
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megajas(z7 VA)

azeleas set buds right after they bloom, so you cut all of the buds off when pruning last year. If you leave them alone this year, they should bloom for you next year.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 7:58AM
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