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When & How to Prune Azaleas: 5 Expert Tips

red azalea

Azaleas are attractive flowering shrubs that many people use as ornamental plants. They are easy to grow and don’t require much maintenance, but many people aren’t sure how to prune them or when the best time to do it is. If this sounds like you, keep reading, as we answer both questions and provide you with several tips and tricks that you can use for a successful crop.

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The 5 Tips on When & How to Prune Azaleas

1. Determine the Type of Azalea

Image By: pixel2013, Pixabay

Evergreen Azaleas

As the name suggests, evergreen azaleas stay green all year and usually grow 18–30 inches tall. This variety rarely needs pruning unless you notice dead branches. You might also prune it if it is getting too large for your liking or is growing over a walkway or into an area where you don’t want it.

Deciduous Azaleas

The deciduous azalea plant is larger than the evergreen variety but will lose its leaves in the fall after they change color. Like the evergreen variety, it won’t require too much pruning, and you will only need to remove broken or diseased limbs if you see any. This variety is native to North America, so it’s easy to find and inexpensive to add to your garden.

2. Choose the Right Time

Choosing the right time to prune your azalea is essential for your success and the plant’s health. The pruning window for azaleas is small because the plant is continually producing new blossoms, so you will need to prune right after the blossoms fade and die and before new ones start to form. In most cases, your blossoms will begin to fade and die in June, with next year’s blossoms starting to form on the branches in early July. Typically, pruning your azaleas before July 1 will help ensure that you have flowers next season. Pruning in the fall or winter can damage the buds that are supposed to bloom in the spring.

3. Prune Your Azaleas With Hand Pruners

Hand farmer holding pruning shears for branch
Image By: wing-wing, Shutterstock

Unlike many other bushes that enable you to use a large tool to trim them into shape quickly, azaleas require you to go branch by branch, taking only what you need, as azaleas tend to grow and look better when you leave them be. Use hand pruners to remove only dead branches or those that don’t fit the plant’s shape. Remove less than 1/3 of the total branch when pruning.

4. Rejuvenate Your Azalea

Even with proper care, your azalea can begin to look tangled and messy after several seasons. To rejuvenate it, you can do a deep pruning, cutting the plant back to about 8 inches above ground level. Doing so will prevent you from getting any flowers next year, but the azalea can start again fresh.

5. Keep a Natural Appearance

pink azalea flowers bloom
Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

Azaleas look better and produce more flowers if you keep them in a natural shape and only remove dead or broken branches. Using large shears to cut many branches at once to create a specific form will likely damage many of the buds, and those that bloom might look out of place in a shaped bush.

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Other Tips and Tricks for Growing Azaleas

Tips and Tricks for Growing Azaleas
  • Plant your azaleas in areas with at least a small amount of shade, especially in warmer climates. Excessively sunny spots can also attract pests, like mites, that can damage the plant and slow growth.
  • Use well-drained soil with azaleas because their shallow roots are susceptible to root rot. Moist soil can also promote mold growth, which can also damage the plant.
  • Azaleas prefer acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 and 6. Anything higher than 6 can stress the plant, resulting in yellowing leaves. Test your soil using a soil test kit to get accurate results.
  • Adding a small bit of mulch around your azalea bush is a great way to make your soil more acidic. It can also help protect the plant from hot direct sunlight in the summer and cold temperatures in the winter.
  • If your azalea plant isn’t growing as well as it should, providing a nitrogen-rich fertilizer can help kick it into gear.
  • Water the azalea daily when you first plant it and do deep pruning for rejuvenation until it starts to show strong growth. Make sure the soil isn’t holding the water and getting muddy, which will damage the roots.

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Azaleas don’t require much pruning unless they start to look thin, which can happen after several seasons, requiring you to cut them back considerably. However, most will only require minimal pruning, as they tend to look better and produce more flowers with a natural appearance. Use a hand pruner to prune your broken branches and dead wood just before July, as soon as the blossoms die off and before new ones begin to form, so you don’t damage next year’s flowers.

Featured Image Credit: _Alicja_, Pixabay


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