Flame azalea

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Can anyone offer advice on how to help an old, established flame azalea to flower better? We moved into a property in western NC (Hendersonville, elevation about 2000 ft.) that has a lovely old flame azalea, approximately 10' tall. Only the younger-looking branches produced flowers this spring. Is severe pruning in order, now that flowering is over? Can't find much written advice on the native flame azalea, just on the nursery cultivars; any help will be much appreciated, and thanks!

Mount Pleasant, SC(Zone 8b)

I've become a recent fan of the natives - Love their colors! They do flower on the ends of the branches, so yes, you may have to do some pruning. It's too late here on the coast to prune, ours are already setting flowers; but you may still be able to do some in NC. I'd prune, and fertilize well with an azalea fertilizer. Also try googling 'native azaleas', there are a lot of great sites for these beautiful natives!

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks, jw; I'd begun to conclude that I'd have to prune before it sets next year's flowers. And I've started using acid-loving fertilizer; we'll see what happens next year. Appreciate the help! I'd never seen an orange azalea before moving here....

Cullowhee, NC(Zone 6b)

Yes, spart, I remember being startled by those bright orange splotches appearing in the woods. It's so showy, out there in the woods among all that wild green. At first, it's hard to believe you're seeing a flower.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

So true, missgarney; and even more startling when it's a specimen plant on the property you just moved into. What a nice surprise!

Vegas,NV Filbert, SC(Zone 7b)

Spart, I have never had any azaleas but plan on many once I move to SC. In preparation of that I read that if you prune soon after the spring bloom you can trim more and in some cases allow for a second blooming in the late summer. The did say to do this during a period of time that skies are expected to be overcasted and plant is not in direct sun for a few days after pruning. Also to help boost blooming using a fertilizer just as the weather begins to hit the 60's helps them.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks, carat; I just pruned today, and have been using fertilizer/iron supp. for acid-loving plants; doubt the soil here has been supplemented for years. We'll wait for next year, and hope for the best!

surfside beach, SC(Zone 8b)

Just back from the mountains.I came right at flame azalea time.This year I found 3 in bloom.The one near the house was on the yellowish side.Another one near our cistern is bright orange and another tall one in the forest is also orange.We have lots of tall bushes but they only bloom if they get enough light which is not always the case in the forest.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

That may be the problem with the feeble blooming on mine; it is in the shade of two very tall, very ancient oaks. No way to move it without damaging its shallow roots, so we'll just work with it and hope for better blooms next year.

Mount Pleasant, SC(Zone 8b)

I'm not sure the shade is a problem, as much as they seem to be old, neglected bushes. You might try pruning some of the branches of the oaks to see if you can get a little more filtered light in. I actually had to move one of mine because it got too much sun! Remember too, when you're fertilizing that those big old oaks are going to suck up a lot of the fertilizer you put in, so you may want to feed 1/2 the amount more often; ie, every 2 weeks, instead of every month.

Sometimes I think just the extra thoughts and attention we give plants makes them bloom more! We've had 3 very old gardenias that had just gotten huge; we finally pruned them way back early, early this spring; I thought I wouldn't get any blooms at all because of the late pruning, but now we're being rewarded with the bushes being just covered with blooms!

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks, jw. The flame is definitely old and neglected, as are all the plants on the property. We moved into an old farmhouse (circa 1939) that, sadly, had been a rental property for the last five-ten years. Someone cared once, but it's been a long time! We're playing "what is it" with some shrubs, having the trees lopped and brought up to shape, and trying to gradually bring things back into shape. When we get frustrated, we remind ourselves that it took years to get this out of shape, and will take years to get it back (LOL).

Mount Pleasant, SC(Zone 8b)

Oh, I know those feelings! We lived in a 150 year old house in Jersey; everything was so overgrown, we felt we were in a jungle! There were wisteria vines with trunks about as big around as a dinner plate, growing up through all the trees, and sprouting up everywhere in the yard - I used to have nightmares I'd wake up and the vines would be covering the house! i did love finding all the 'old' shrubs and bringing them back!

Burlington, NC(Zone 7b)

You've said something there that rings a bell. The flame is planted between two oaks. It's good you're giving the acid fertilizer, but if it were me - I would rake away the oak leaves and mulch heavily with pine straw. The rhododendron family loves pine straw at their feet. It's a acid addition to the soil where the oak is sending the soil pH the other way. Also, if you drink coffee - put the used grounds out around it. The bush will love you for it.
Post some pictures so we can see..

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks for both the replies! Your wisteria nightmare rang a chilling chord, jw; our former home in VA had rampant trumpet vine that had invaded and taken over all the garden beds, and kept threatening the house/porch; no matter what we did, we couldn't control or eradicate it!

Love the idea of the pine straw mulch, swoznick, and thanks! We keep after the oak leaves (a constant battle), but I hadn't realized that oaks are alkaline; it explains a lot. And I'll be glad to give the coffee grounds to the shrubs instead of to the compost pile; that should definitely help acidify.

Really appreciate the help from both of you; we have a lot to do and learn here....

Columbia, SC

I'm assuming the flame azalea is huge, but I would have thought shallow-rooted shrubs would be easier to transplant, not harder. I enjoy reading garden books by Pamela Harper, and she says that when a shrub is too large, she whacks it back to let it start over. Don't know that you'd want to do anything that drastic, though.

This Spring I fertilized one of my hollies with a product made by Espoma called Holly-Tone which has really helped my acid-loving holly. I usually fertilize my shrubs and trees once a year, but the holly was showing some chlorosis which the Holly-Tone corrected. The new growth has also been quite remarkable.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Hi, Fleurs, and thanks for the help. The flame azalea is too big for me to move with just me and my shovel doing the work; it's about 10' in height. Hopefully the pruning we did last week will help with next year's bloom, along with regular feeding during this growing season. I use Hollytone on my "regular" azaleas, and love it. Have been using a liquid acid-loving food with iron for the flame, in hopes it will be absorbed by the flame's shallow roots and not stolen by the neighboring oaks (whose roots are EVERYWHERE). Time will tell if any of this helps, but at least we feel like we're trying...

Mount Pleasant, SC(Zone 8b)

For anyone interested in native azaleas, I've bookmarked this site - right here in SC!

http://www.ferngullynursery.com/default.aspx

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks, jw: great link!

surfside beach, SC(Zone 8b)

Thanks I've bookmarked it too.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Hi,
Perhaps air-layering your flame azalea before pruning. I've had good luck with rooting rhododendrons and mountain laurel. With those you can just bend a branch down to the ground and put a rock on top. Preferably you'd scrape bark off of place your want to form roots and treating w/ rootone before laying onto soil, but I've had them root even without doing that. If you put a pot with soil in it, you can bend it to that instead of all of the way to the ground. That makes it easier to transplant -- don't have to dig it up! I'm all for easy.

When I was a kid we had an over-grown azalea bush which we air-layered. I thought it was really neat to go around adding water to any of the baggies that weren't moist enough. Now I don't think I'd do that with the same zeal and dedication. That is why I opt for the "lay a rock on it, and forget it" method.

I know that there was some plant catalogue with a snap-on air-layering pot which supposedly didn't need to be watered, but I don't remember where I saw it -- besides plastic bags are usually cheaper, if not free.

--
Mary

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

What a great and easy way to air-layer: thanks! The flame azalea flowered nicely this year for the first time in our residency, maybe because of last year's pruning and judicious feeding and acidifying during last year's growing season. But I'll definitely keep this technique in mind for future issues.

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