sad looking azaleas

dana_paJune 6, 2006

Hi! I'm new here, and I'm having some trouble with my azaleas. I have 2 azaleas and one rhododendron that came with my house, so I have no idea what kind they are or how old they are, but they are at least 8 years old. Last year, I had to have a retaining wall near them rebuilt, so they were moved about 3 feet from their original locations. I watered them religiously following the move, and they all perked up and were very healthy. But this Spring, the two azaleas are looking a little sickly. One is worse than the other, but both have considerably fewer leaves than usual. Both bloomed, although not dramatically. We've had a very wet Spring this year, and I'm not sure if that's part of the problem. I gave them azalea/rhododendron Miracle-Grow, to see if that would help. Any other ideas?

Thanks!

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luis_pr

Hello, Dana_pa. Based on the information that you provided, I am not quite sure what could be the problem. I am not sure how much water the plants are getting, if they were planted too deeply, how much sun they get, etc.

Your problem could be one or many things caused by the move (most likely) and/or weather. Damage to roots, stress from the move, planting too deeply, too much sun in the new location, too much or too little water, etc. I do know that, once transplanted, azaleas have to be baby'ed until they recover from the move in a year or so.

I suggest you review the information in the link below titled "Sun And Shade", "Planting Rhododendrons and Azaleas" and "Fertilizing". And even though you already transplanted them, do read the section titled "Transplanting Rhododendrons and Azaleas" too. Look for things that differ from the way you planted the azaleas.

And keep an eye on this watering/fertilizing that you are doing. Water only when the soil feels dry because otherwise you could drown the plant with too much water and/or cause a host of other problems like root rot and fungal diseases. Keep the soil moist, not wet, and maintain a good level of mulch, like 2-3 inches. As for fertilizing, I always limit this when transplanting. Switch from chemical fertilizers to Hollytone or Liquid Seaweed. Under normal conditions, azaleas can survive off the decomposing mulch only.

Luis

Here is a link that might be useful: How To Grow Rhodies and Azaleas

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 12:09PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

A couple more things, make sure you know the cultural requirements of azaleas and rhododendrons. They need a moist well-drained acidic soil and a good mulch to keep the roots moist and cool and to prevent weeds. They have shallow roots, so weeding around a rhododendron and azalea is not an option.

As Luis mentioned, wet roots is the major cause of death, but when you transplant you have to be careful not to let them dry out either. Fertilizing plants when moving them is like giving a person a big steak dinner just before a major operation. The results are comparable. No more fertilizer with any nitrogen until they begin to look healthy. You may need to add sulfur to acidify and if your soil is deficient in phosphates or potassium, then those may be added. I live in SE PA and my soil is very deficient in phosphates. I need to had super-phosphate and sulfur.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 1:44PM
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dana_pa

Thanks for the advice! The move was actually last year, and was done by the landscapers, not me. I just added the fertilizer a few weeks ago. But since we had several weeks of wet, rainy weather in the last month, I'm suspecting wet roots to be the culprit. I guess I can't tell Mother Nature to stop raining on my poor azalea, huh??

Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 3:00PM
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luis_pr

Normally that (a rainy month) would not be a problem but I am not sure just how much has actually rained where you live. Rhododendrons and azaleas like good drainage and perhaps the soil in this new area is a problem. However, you said the new location was just three feet away so it is hard to think that drainage there would be a problem if it was not before then.

The fact that landscapers moved the azalea makes me think that perhaps they planted it too deep. No offense to landscapers out there but, it is conceivable that your workers bees were never told how to transplant azaleas and planted them too deep. You may want to check; see the link I gave you for more info on Planting Rhododendrons and Azaleas. To quote: "Set the root ball into your prepared hole (making sure the top 1-2 inches of the ball is above the soil level)."

Good luck, dana_pa!
Luis

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 8:01PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Usually in soils of questionable pH and drainage, rhododendrons and azaleas are planted in raised beds. This insures good drainage and better control over the pH. A raised bed is simply a slight hillock so the roots which are shallow will be above the surrounding grade. Hence, no matter how much it rains, the soil will be able to drain properly. I doubt if many landscapers in the D/FW area Texas are familiar with the cultural requirements of rhododendrons.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 11:11PM
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dana_pa

The azalea is planted right at the top of a slope, so drainage shouldn't be an issue. But it may very well be planted too deep. I'll check when I get home.

Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 3:04PM
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samrn

We, too moved into a house where there are 2 azaleas that seemed to really be struggling. I found "Azalea/Rhododendron" food by Miracle-Gro that is supposed to acidify the soil and watered them with it a few times. This year they bloomed beautifully and they are really thriving!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 8:09AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Azalea, Camellia, Rhododendron Plant Food is more of a problem than a solution. It is water soluble so doesn't have any lasting effect. It is high in nitrogen (40-30-30), so it promotes leaf growth and should not be used after early summer if at all. This is sometimes called Miracid.

Miracle-Gro® Shake 'n Feed® Continuous Release Azalea, Camellia, Rhododendron Plant Food is better, but is even higher in nitrogen (8-4-4). It does contain sulfur and will provide lasting results and make the soil more acidic which is good.

A much better product is Espoma Holly-tone. It is a slow release (4-6-4) fertilizer especially formulated for hollies, azaleas, evergreens, rhododendron & other acid-loving plants. It is made of quality ingredients that will provide long term improvement of the soil.

Here is a link that might be useful: Holly-tone

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 5:17PM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Forgive me for hi-jacking your thread but I have a question concerning Holly-tone. I didn't fertilize my small leaf rhody's this year or last but now they look like they could use a shot of something. (AND they have lacewings too!) Will it do any harm if I apply Holly-tone now?

Thanks

    Bookmark   June 13, 2006 at 10:00AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

No, you can use Holly-tone up to mid summer, even though early spring is the best time.

About the only way to get rid of lace bug is to move the infected plants into more shade. Lace bug thrives on certain plants but only when they are in the sun.

Whitish specks on the upper surface of leaves and dark spots varnish-like on the bottom are symptoms of rhododendron lace bugs, small insects with transparent wings on under-surface of leaves. They are more prevalent on certain varieties and on plants grown in sunny areas. When damage first appears, it may be controlled by any of a number of contact insecticides such as Malathion or Orthene. Care must be taken to spray the lower surfaces of the leaves where the lace bugs live. Moving a plant to an area with more shade may alleviate the problem.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2006 at 11:39AM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Thanks Rhodyman,

The infested ones are "purple gem" and they only recieve morning sun during the summer months. Almost full sun in winter. Thanks for the tips on treating them. I'll apply some Hollytone today!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2006 at 2:19PM
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