Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gardening Thursday - Pruning My Azaleas

It’s been several years since I pruned my azaleas and like many of our other shrubs they were way out of control. Unlike the “be ruthless” advice I gave for the earlier shrubs I pruned, azaleas must be treated with more care, as with all evergreens, so enough greenery remains to support the plant. In general no more than 30% should be removed at any one time and for azaleas, it should be done shortly after the blooms fade so as not to cut off next year’s blooms, which are put on in mid-summer. Here is the first one prior to beginning.

Since I prefer azaleas to have a nature growth habit rather than look like a blooming boxwood, I prune each branch with hand shears. I use proper pruning technique which means remove entire branches back to a main branch or shorten a branch back to a healthy node. If you look at an azalea it will generally have one or two long branches coming from the last node and other shorter branches from the same node. I just cut off the longer ones within ¼” of the node and leave the smaller ones or in a few cases I go back to the second node.  This is the first and second node on this one.

I cut it at the second node since it was sticking up so far.

Here you can see the two larger ones on the left and smaller ones on the right.

I also removed all of the dead branches back to a main stem as they can eventually kill the plant. There was a big dead limb in the middle and I cut back hard on some of those lying on the ground. This is the after shot including the debris pile.

Next year I’ll work on it again to get it in good shape for a couple of years. Here’s the ones in front of the house that are covering the Japanese maple, a juniper, and the azaleas behind them. My goal is to have them look like individual plants touching each other, rather than an azalea mass, but it will take me two years.

These were not as old and out of control so I just cut back the wild limbs - did a little work on the Redbud as well.

If you plan to prune trees or shrubs and you are unsure of proper pruning techniques, just do a search on those three words and many good how-to sites will pop up. Knowing where, when, and how to cut will help keep your plants healthy and looking good, but doing it wrong can severely damage or kill the plant.  Also pruning regularly will prevent what I'm having to do with some of mine because I let them go too long.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  Grilled Chicken Ala Chris



  1. That azalia trimming looks like tricky business. I don't think they'll grow in Colorado.

  2. It looks like you have the process down to a science, Larry. Your property is beautiful and benefits from your knowledge and green thumb. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  3. I love learning more about gardening from you Larry! I just pruned my azaleas on Monday (our boat was in the shop on the 4th, so we gardened in the morning when it when it was cooler). I just trim off the long ones that are so obviously fart too long and sticking out. Like you, I prefer the natural look on azaleas. Have you fed your azaleas yet? What do you feed them? Thanks for your advice!

  4. Interesting about the Azaleas, Larry, since I pruned ours in the back a couple of years ago --and did a horrible job (since they have never some back very good). The front ones are fine after pruning --so I'm not sure what I did wrong. The ones in back just don't look healthy --so I'm tempted to pull them all up (there are 3-4 of them) and replace them with Rhodies--which seem to do well back there...

    Thanks for the excellent info.

  5. I have just one itty bitty azalea, and it didn't even turn green last year. So I was stunned when it turned green and then bloomed this year. Oddly, it's never gotten much bigger than when we put it in, so a trim has yet to be in order.

  6. Great advice Larry and I'm saving this if and when our azaleas grow.

    Presently Bambi and his friends prune ours for free. A shame too because I love azaleas. Now the leaves are tasty appetizers for the deer. We had a lot of azaleas in Mississippi and never quite knew when to prune. Now I know.

  7. So when does one prune prune trees? (ha ha, j/k)

    I like azaleas because they are so gorgeous when their blooms explode but I always thought they were demanding little shrubs so we don't have any here.


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