An azalea will give you signs that it’s not happy and something is wrong with it before it dies. All plants provide us with warning signs. However, we often overlook them and give them more water in an attempt to correct whatever is ailing them.
Giving a dying azalea more water will not revive it and restore it to health. Too much water might be the problem. Look for these signs to know if your azalea is still alive. If the problem is caught in time, the plant might be salvageable.
Is The Azalea Still Alive? Look For Life
If an azalea is not looking good and is dropping flowers and/or leaves, don’t assume the plant is dead. Look for life by testing the stems for signs of green. Take your fingernail and lightly scrape a stem. If you see green where you scraped the stem the azalea is still alive.
If at the first scrape you don’t find green on the stem go further down the stem, scraping every 2-inches (5cm) until you find green.
When you do find green, you will need to prune off everything above the green stem section. The pruning will stimulate the azalea to grow new stems. Hopefully it will revive the plant if the underlying cause is discovered and treated.
Azaleas set their buds for next year immediately after they finish blooming this year. Therefore, depending on the time of year you prune them, the plant may not bloom next year. But if the plant is saved and re-grows, you can enjoy the azalea blooms for many years to come.
Watering incorrectly is the number one way azaleas are killed. Over-watering creates soggy soil and azaleas are prone to root rot when their growing environment is overly moist.
Under-watering causes the plant to die from dehydration. The initial signs are the same – yellowing leaves that fall off the plant. Sometimes the leaves will also develop spots after turning yellow.
Use the finger test to help prevent over-watering or under-watering. Insert one finger into the soil at a depth of 4-inches (10cm). If soil is almost dry at that depth, it’s time to water. Give the plant 1-gallon (3.8 L) of water early in the morning. After 3 days, finger test the soil again and anytime it’s dry at 4-inches (10cm) deep, water the azalea again.
This is a fungus caused by the roots being in overly wet soil. If root rot infects the azalea badly, remove and discard the plant because root rot is contagious among plants.
The signs of this problem are droopy leaves that curl in on themselves, then turn brown and fall off the azalea.
If caught in the early stages, the azalea might be salvageable. Prune off affected branches and leaves, improve soil drainage, and treat soil with a fungicide.
Planting too deep
The original top of the root ball should be slightly higher than ground level. If you plant an azalea too deep the plant will begin to look unhealthy, the leaves will droop, and eventually turn brown and fall off.
If a newly planted azalea is looking unhealthy, re-plant it at a higher level.
This is a fungus that will cause the leaves to turn reddish-brown and drop off on one side of an azalea. Scratch the bark every 2-inches (5cm) on affected branches until you find green. You need to prune off the dying branches 2-inches (5cm) past the green to ensure all the twig blight is removed.
Do not burn the branches that are pruned off. Twig blight affects other plants and the smoke from the diseased branches being burned will spread it to other woody plants in your landscape.
Mites are the main pest that attacks azaleas. These pests congregate on the underside of leaves and look like tiny black dots. An azalea infested with mites will begin to develop bleached-out leaves that will eventually fall off.
Treat plants with insecticide and prune off the affected leaves and branches.
Florists wrap azalea pots with pretty foil to enhance appearance. If you have a foil-wrapped azalea, remove the foil so the soil can drain. Foil wrapping doesn’t allow for proper drainage and the soil will remain soggy.
Propagate an azalea so you will always have new, healthy plants on hand. Take a 3-5 inch (7 – 12 cm) cutting of new growth from a grown plant. Remove all leaves from the bottom third of the cutting.
Dip the stem end of each cutting in a rooting hormone. Insert the lower one-third of each cutting into a container of growing medium. A new azalea plant will be ready to transplant in 2 months.