sickly azaleas

dale2May 10, 2009

I sure do need help! I have 8 azaleas planted across the front of my house outside of Phila. When we moved in 17 years ago,they were full, tall, and healthy,providing beauty and privacy. Now, they all are less healthy, with the ones on one side of the house particularly sickly. Whole branches, from the bottom cluster up, are dying. Now we can look at the wide cluster of branches and see only one to three still thriving. Other branches are dead and, after a couple of years, the stumps break off easily. The bark on the broken off stumps has lines/cracks going around the branch. I am so sad about this! In the past years, a couple of things have happened that could be factors (?). (1) We had leaf gall for about three years. We carefully broke off all affected areas and we have not seen them in about three years. (2)They were sprayed for aphids and fed by a landscaping pro for about three years, stopping about 5 years ago (3) We cut down a tall oak that probably provided shade. They all now have almost full sun but it is notable that the side that had been shaded the most with the oak is the healthier side now- so if if was too much sun, this would not make sense. (4) My husband puts the Christmas tree and wreaths under the azaleas in Jan. In May, he typically cuts off the metal parts to the wreathes and cut s the branches to spread as mulch. Then, sometimes, we put about an inch more mulch on top early in the summer. ...We are contemplating digging them up but we would love to learn of some way to save them- and we fear that if the problem is bacteria or something in the soil we would get the same problem with any new planting. BTW perennials planted in the same bed are doing fine. Thank you for any help you can give me! Dale

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In your situation, I would get a soil test kit and test soil pH around the azaleas. If you are watering these shrubs with tap water, and your tap water contains dissolved limestone, you may be raising soil pH over time.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 10:32AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

I live nearby in the Reading area. I think you are seeing drought damage. Drought can cause entire branches or entire plants to die. We have had several years of drought here and we observe that if rhododendrons and azaleas are not watered during a drought some plants will die, but others will just have one section of the plant die. It seems to be the plants way to conserve what little moisture it has. Prolonged drought weakens plants and often results in the appearance of fungal cankers on the branches of older azaleas. Look for branches that wilt in hot, dry weather in late summer and be sure to water azaleas if drought drags on more than a few weeks. Prune out the affected branches to stop the spread of fungal canker diseases.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 1:07PM
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