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[AZ] Advice - Severe trim to old azalea bushes in Zone 8a

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  • George Klump
    ... From: Harold Greer To: azaleas@yahoogroups.com Sent: Friday, March 30, 2007 8:49 PM Subject: RE: [AZ] Advice - Severe trim to old azalea bushes in Zone 8a
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 31, 2007
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      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Friday, March 30, 2007 8:49 PM
      Subject: RE: [AZ] Advice - Severe trim to old azalea bushes in Zone 8a


      I totally disagree with you on this.  Just because you like tall spindly azalea plants, it is not necessary to have them tall and spindly.  If you like tall and spindly plants, that is OK, but healthy azaleas can be able to be cut from six feet to one foot and be fine.  Just do it right after they flower.  I don't recall saying that I liked "spindly" azaleas of any kind.  That's an assumption you made.  Nor do I know that the azaleas J.T. has are "spindly", although they are tall.  My point was to encourage them to flower and, then, trim them as much as is wanted.  Azaleas which are out in the sun tend to flower readily and to put on a good leaf structure, if they are properly cared for.  Obviously, these azaleas had not been.  Personally, I like larger azaleas, if they're shaped and fed.  That's why a cited Tyler.  None of mine are "spindly", although some a large. 

      Yes, next year you may not have as many flowers, but they will grow back fine and flower in coming years.  I have seen thousands of plants trimmed like this over the near 50 years I have been raising these plants and unless the plant is dieing to begin with, they will be fine.  I still remember a field of rhododendrons and azaleas of two or more acres that that grown to six feet tall and were planted about 18” apart.  The owner of the nursery went in there with a chain saw and cut all the plants to ground level.  By the end of the second spring he had some of the nicest looking rhododendrons and azaleas you could see.

      Give them a good shot of fertilizer with a formula such as 10-6-4.  This is the formula Oregon State University came up with after extensive testing.  Our nursery modified it to 20-12-8 with 8% sulphur and  micronutrients and we have had tremendous success.  However, this will push leaf development.  Since much of the soil in the South is acidic and/or sometimes heavier clay or claylike, I'm not too keen on high nitrogen this time of year in that type of soil, unless the intent is to skip the flowers in favor of leaves.  The soil also tends to have a high iron content in some areas.  Anyone who plants azaleas only 18" apart in a field of 2 + acres needs to have their head examined, wouldn't you say, Harold?



      Don’t be afraid to cut the plants back.  I can tell you from years of experience, it works.

      Harold Greer

      From: azaleas@yahoogroups .com [mailto:azaleas@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of George Klump
      Sent: Friday, March 30, 2007 2:16 PM
      To: azaleas@yahoogroups .com
      Cc: inofsmith@earthlink .net; bill@ttheasaleawork s.com
      Subject: Re: [AZ] Advice - Severe trim to old azalea bushes in Zone 8a

      30 March 2007

      J.T. --

      If your azaleas are mostly about 6 feet tall, I would be loathe myself to cut them too much.  The reason for that is that flowers form on the new growth.  If that is cut off, then, one gets no flowers the next time around.  There are many azaleas that tall and taller in the Tyler , Texas area, in fact, they have or did have an "azalea trail" which one could follow around through the streets there where large azalea bushes such as you describe were everywhere to be seen.  And they were beautiful. 

      My suggestion would be to do no trimming now at all.  You might use a fertilizer with an NPK, e.g. 10-30-10, i.e. nitrogen (10), phosphorus (30), potassium (10).  High phosphorous at this time of year will promote the flowers that you want and will also result in some new leaves.  After the flowering season is past, say, late July or early August, then, I would fertilize them again with a higher nitrogen fertilizer, perhaps a 30-10-10 or something similar.  Higher nitrogen will promote leaf growth for next year which is to say it will promote the new wood on which the flowers will form. 

      If you choose to cut them back as severely as you have suggested here, e.g. cutting off 5 of the 6 feet, then, you may shock the azaleas more than they can withstand and you might not get the plants back with the same vigor they apparently still have.  Azaleas which are that big and have been in the ground that long are obviously strong plants with a resistance to most problems.  I'd count it as a blessing and just do some mild pruning for shape after they have finished flowering.  I would not worry about bare branches down underneath unless you wish to thin out the plants a little.  Then, yes, cut some of the unnecessary branches out so that the plant's energy will be devoted to the good branches you want.   But I would still be careful that good branches are left intact. 

      That would be my path.

      George Klump

      Southern California Chapter 

      ----- Original Message -----

      From: J.T.

      Sent: Friday, March 30, 2007 7:51 AM

      Subject: [AZ] Advice - Severe trim to old azalea bushes in Zone 8a

        (New to zone 8a, Montgomery , Alabama )


      After receiving personal assistance and reviewing the Galle book and pictures on line about azalea cultivars, I have successfully attached a weatherproof label to 40 of the 50+ azalea bushes here.  Previous owner lived (but did not garden)here for 42 years. Each bush fertilized with the recommended fertilizer.  No diseases apparent.

      All upright bushes have NOT been properly pruned, and most stand 6 ft tall.  As this is the first time I've seen these bushes in bloom, it's obvious the previous owner just sheared off the tops of the bushes.  For each bush I investigated down to 1 ft. of the base; there isn't any new growth, just thick, bare branches.

      After blooming is complete perhaps each upright bush needs cutting back to approximately 1 ft.  When I do this the appearance will be bare, but I anticipate new growth throughout the summer and I will try to persistently trim and shape each bush up until end of August.

      Any advice or warnings that you may have will be greatly appreciated.


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