Pruning Azaleas

Pruning azaleas isn't required very often, as the plant has a pleasing natural shape. There are times, however, where pruning is required. When the need for pruning arises, timing it crucial. Pruning out of season can lead to reduced bloom production or damage to your azalea.

Tips For Pruning Azaleas

Azaleas are a very naturalistic shrub and typically need very little in the way of shaping. Choosing the right variety and placing it properly can remove the need to keep an azalea kept to a specific size. But sometimes, even the best plant needs a little off the top. Help your azaleas thrive with proper pruning by following these tips:

  • Timing is everything. Azaleas begin producing next year's blooms shortly after the current year's blooms are spent. In most areas of the country, this means late spring or early summer. For best results, begin pruning when the blooms are faded, but haven't dropped off your azalea.
  • But, it's a big job! If your azalea needs major surgery, the best time to prune will be in the early spring, before new growth begins to form. You'll lose this season's bloom, but you'll give your shrubs plenty of time to recover before winter sets in.
  • Keep it clean. As you prune, keep your cutters clean with a 4:1 solution of water and bleach. Dipping the blades of your cutting tool in this solution before each cut will sterilize the tool, curbing the spread of any infection.
  • The weak and the dead. Before you consider shaping your azalea, remove any dead branches and any branches that are being shaded out by the rest of the plant. Make these cuts as close to the main trunk as possible. Now, take a step back and consider the effect. Many times, thinning out your plant will be all it needs.
  • Come back here! Older azalea plants may have several long branches that have "gotten away" from the rest of the plant. Removing these truants is better done over a number of years to reduce stress on the plant. Each year, remove two or three of the worst offenders until your azalea has reached the desired shape. Cut the long branches back to a side branch joint to avoid leaving dead wood that can become a vector for infection.
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