Azaleas are beautiful flowering shrubs that add color and character to your home or garden. They are a relatively inexpensive shrub that can quickly flourish with a little bit of tender loving care. Azaleas are a great shrub to add to your home, whether you are landscaping or gardening.
For landscaping, azaleas add pops of color in the spring and summer months, bringing life to your home. For gardening, azaleas do not attract bees, so if you have an allergy to bee stings, this may be a good choice of shrub for you.
No matter the reason, azaleas are an ideal shrub to plant, so it is important to know as much as possible regarding pruning azaleas.
So, let’s find out how and when to trim, prune, and cut back azaleas.
When to Trim Azaleas
You should expect to see azaleas bloom in spring between March and May, depending on the region in which you live. The warmer the climate, the sooner the azaleas will bloom. This makes the time to trim azaleas determined when the blooms have faded as opposed to a specific time of year.
When azaleas bloom in spring, they produce a bright, vibrant flower with a large and deep opening. These flowers will last for a few months before they begin to fade. As soon as the flowers fade, it is time to trim.
Trimming the faded blooms before the new blooms have begun to grow means the azalea will have more energy to put into the new blooms, making the new blooms bigger and more colorful for the next season. This is quite a simple task, using a pair of anvil pruners, you will be able to finish this quite quickly.
Without trimming these faded blooms, the azalea will have energy going to both the faded blooms as well as the new blooms it is creating, causing the new blooms to be fewer and less vibrant. The method for pruning rhododendrons vs azaleas is slightly different to this.
You will want to trim azaleas after the flower bloom of the spring has faded because azaleas will begin to make new blooms in July. This means you may need to trim the faded blooms as early as late May or throughout June, depending on where you live.
If you do not trim the faded blooms before the new blooms have begun to appear, do not trim the faded blooms now. Trimming the faded blooms after the new blooms have appeared can significantly reduce the quantity and quality of next year’s blooms. You will need to trim the blooms as soon as they begin to shrivel, discolor, and fade, which is typically before July.
Pruning Azaleas, How To
Azaleas are not meant to be pruned in a shape the way that hedges or other shrubs can be. In fact, trying to prune azaleas so that they take a formal shape can hurt the azalea. The azalea will not flower or grow correctly if the branches are cut unusually.
When pruning an azalea, you should look at each branch individually. Try not to think about the overall shape that you want the azalea to take. Instead, look at the branches that are longer than the rest to determine which branches need pruning the most.
To know where to cut, you will look at the branches that are longer than the rest and cut them back between one-third and one-half of the length of the branch. You will want to prune the branches that are longer than the rest so that you give the azalea a clean and maintained shape.
Once the longest branches have been cut, take a step back and look at the remaining branches to determine if you can cut any additional branches back to clean up the overall shape of the azalea.
To cut the branches back, use a pair of sharp pruning shears to make clean and precise cuts. Because of their height, azaleas can typically be pruned using handheld pruning shears; however, any kind of pruning shears will work.
Pruning Leggy Azaleas
You may have a leggy azalea but don’t even realize it. Leggy azaleas will still bloom, which may seem like they are healthy and require no attention, but take a step back and look at the azalea and how full it is.
If your azalea is full of blooms deep within the shrub, you do not have a leggy azalea. However, if your blooms look sporadic and only on the outside edges of the branches, you have a leggy azalea. But don’t worry! A little pruning and a lot of patience will help turn your leggy azalea into the full and lush shrub it was meant to become.
To prune leggy azaleas, you will need a pair of pruning shears and a whole lot of patience. Pruning leggy azaleas is a slow process, as you have to prune a little bit each year for you to receive a return on your investment; however, the reward is worth the wait.
Pruning leggy azaleas should be done in the winter. Look at your azalea and pick out a few branches to cut down fairly short. You will want to cut the branch down to a dormant bud. If no dormant bud is available, cut the branch down to a short, sturdy branch. This will cause the branches to produce blooms deep within the shrub as opposed to just on the outside edges of the branches.
Pick a few branches each year to cut back and repeat the process each winter until all of the leggy branches have been cut back.
Can Azaleas be Cut Back to the Ground?
Some shrubs thrive after being cut back to the ground, but the azalea is not one of those shrubs. Cutting azaleas back to the ground can cause them to become sick and even die if they do not recover from being diseased.
The shortest that an azalea should be cut back is 12 inches. If an azalea is cut down to less than 12 inches tall, it may take three or more years to rebloom if it survives. The likelihood of the azalea becoming sick and dying is extreme if you cut the azalea below 12 inches.
If you have an azalea with branches that need cutting back below 12 inches, we recommend doing a few branches at a time, leaving many tall and strong branches in place while doing so. This will keep the azalea overall healthy while cutting back those branches that may require it. However, do not cut the entire azalea to the ground below 12 inches, as your azalea likely will not survive.
What Zones are Suitable for Azaleas?
There are 11 different planting zones throughout the United States. 10° F increments separate these planting zones. Zone 1 is the coldest climate, and zone 13 is the warmest climate. Zone 1 has the shortest warm season with the average latest frost occurring in late May with the earliest frost occurring in late August, while zones 10 through 13 generally have no frost to worry about.
The best zones for azaleas are zones 4 through 8, with the warmer zones being the better choice. These hardiness zones will have a cold season but one that will accommodate azaleas.
Tips for Planting in Zones 4, 5, and 6
If planting azaleas in zones 4, 5, and 6, you will want to plant in full sun so that the shrubs get at least 6 hours of full sun a day. Full sun in zones 4, 5, and 6 will increase the number of flowers that bloom as well as reduce the amount of mildew that is formed on the shrubs. Mildew can deteriorate the overall quality of the shrub.
You should also plant azaleas in an area that can block the wind. A cold, dry win can dry out the buds and flowers of the azaleas. This will cause the shrub not to bloom or produce flowers, which is the reason for planting the azaleas in the first place.
Planting azaleas in full sun and in an area that can be blocked from wind will help the plants thrive in zones 4, 5, and 6.
Tips for Planting in Zones 7 and 8
If planting azaleas in zones 7 and 8, you will need to make sure they are planting in an area that will get adequate shade in the afternoons and evenings. As zones 7 and 8 are warmer climates, azaleas will not need as much sun as they require in zones 4 through 6 because they do not need the warmth from the sun as those zones do.
Receiving too much sun in the warm climate of zones 7 and 8 can cause the azaleas to dry out quickly, potentially damaging the plant. If the climate is tropical, azaleas will bloom without any sun at all.
How to Plant Azaleas
Regardless of the zone you are in, you will need to plant the shrubs in spring or early fall. To plant azaleas, you will dig a hole that will cover the entire root ball, making it twice as wide as the root ball.
Place the root ball of the plant in the hole, making sure that the top of the roots is level with the ground. Once the root ball has been placed in the hole, fill the hole half full with soil and water the roots and soil. Allow the water to settle before filling the remainder of the hole with soil.