SOS: in a no-win situation re: azaleas

idixierose(z8b Coastal SC)August 21, 2005

All right -- I need some practical advice on what to do with the azaleas on the estate where I am the gardener.

Here's my situation: I know all of our azaleas need a drastic pruning, however the owners have asked me not to cut the azaleas to the ground as long as their estate is up for sale. The azaleas are planted in traditional Southern style, with huge beds of Indicas (Formosas, Tabors, Pride of Mobiles and Savannahs)

However, last spring, they commented (with a tone of accusation in their voices) that the azaleas did not bloom as lavishly as they once did.

In my "act now, beg forgiveness later" manner, I have taken the liberty of cutting some of the azaleas back in areas where they will not be noticed as readily. However, in places this is not practical and would leave big gaps in the beds.

Also, in one of the areas where I did cut the azaleas to the ground, now there's a lot of "leggy" growth which looks like it ought to be clipped to make it bush out. But at this time of year, I fear I would be trimming off next year's blooms.

Bear in mind that I'm not talking about 100 azalea bushes, but closer to 1000.

No matter what I do, I feel like I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.

Also, how often can I safely do rejuvenative pruning on azaleas?

I ask because there's a huge bed of Formosas that I cut back to the ground in 2003. That bed is now back to its pre-pruning size of about 9' high and 30' wide and then some. It would be really difficult to crawl under the bushes and cut out a few branches on each bush.

I'm going to stop now before I begin a major rant.

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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

What is your question? I don't do anything to the few azaleas that I have and they bloom heavily. Do azaleas need "rejuvenative pruning"?

- Brent

    Bookmark   August 25, 2005 at 10:21AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

DixieRose....are you anywhere near my former (and much beloved) Beaufort, SC?

I expect that you've decided that these azaleas need to be cut back to the ground because they are way over grown, leggy, and just plain too big for their britches. Indicas get that way.

Unfortunately, I don't think you should do any major pruning right now. One, you will lose any chance of spring bloom. Two, you would absolutely force those plants into a late season growth spurt which can be dangerous in that neck of the woods. Three....didn't the owners say that they didn't want any major pruning right now??? LOL

Here's something for you to consider, too. Are these plants languishing under some old oaks? You may need to beef up the fertilizer on them next year, if so. Also, contrary to what people seem to think, these azaleas do have a finite life span. They don't live forever.

Anyway, my advice is to concentrate of all of the fall tasks, and avoid any further pruning, fertilization, or other growth promoting activities. Rejuvenation pruning should be a spring event (after blooming unless you have permission to whack them beforehand.)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2005 at 2:02PM
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