Sad, very woody azaleas

Cary, NC(Zone 7a)


I inherited some azaleas in my new backyard, but they look rather sad and very woody. there are hardly any leaves on them, and i'm afraid much of the woody stems are dead. I've been watering and have given them miracle gro, but even after a few weeks there isn't much improvement. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to revive these bushes? Should I trim them back? When is the best time to do that?

Many, many thanks!!

Thumbnail by xagrimonyx Thumbnail by xagrimonyx Thumbnail by xagrimonyx
Cary, NC(Zone 7a)

Also, I should add they are in an area that gets part sun. The whole section is pretty shady but it does get some sun. Ideas on other things to plant there are also welcomed.

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Is this area a dry area? It's hard to tell from the pictures but it looks to be under evergreen trees.

Cary, NC(Zone 7a)

It is under an evergreen. I try to keep it watered, but the area is probably on the dry side otherwise.

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Well the light seems correct but in regards to the water, I'm not sure. It might be the case where they don't get enough water and they are in a constant state of stress. This would leave them unprepared to deal with any pest or disease situation.

Personally, I am not a big fan of nursing back to health a dying plant unless you know the history of the plant and it's something that just happened. In this case, you recently took possession of these, so you wouldn't know the history of the plant. It could be something that just happened or something that's been going on for years.

Even as I say this though, I've been trying to keep alive three holly bushes that are in a similar dry/stress situation but I think after three years I may finally give up the battle next season.

Cary, NC(Zone 7a)

Let's say I am extremely hard-headed and would like to at least try to nurse them back... besides making sure they are watered, what else can I do? I am tempted to remove some of the woodier branches....

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

I would look very closely at the stems to see if there is any pests like scale or like Phytophthora that is sucking the life out of the stems or under the leaves. If you're unsure, I would take a cutting to a local nursery and ask someone with experience what they think. It would be important to treat anything that is causing the problem.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

I agree with you xagrimonyx, I think any plants that have struggled for a long while to make it, they deserve a bit of TLC to try fix the problems so go for it, it only cost's you time.
!st, try to dig out some soil about 8-12 inches from the sten, Azalea's are not deep rooted so go gentle, get a clear plastic juice container and cut the bottom off it, remove the cap and insert the container refill the gap in the hole with the soil you removed, fill the container a few times with water and this water will get down to the roots, in a day or so, do this again BUT, add a feed you can buy for acidic plants like Azalea's, Rhododendrons ect, this will give a little boost to start the ball rolling, do the same with the other plant.
When you feed, go by the instructions on the makers guide on the packet as too much is as bad as none at all.
Continue to water every few days and you should see signs of a happier plant, maybe it wont sprout new leaves but again if it's not loosing any more then it's holding it's own,
I would keep this regime up for the rest of the summer, but NOT more feed then when the weather gets cooler, dis

decide where you want to move the plants to, these are dapple shade plants but dont like to compete with tree's as the larger tree's will always get /take all the moisture and the Azalea's wont get much.

When you move them, have the new planting hole prepared, by digging a hole twice as wide and twice as deep and then add plenty humus or leaf mould as this will help hold moisture in the soilwhen you water, you can still do the bottle inserted into the soil and place it in the hole when you back fill, once you have the plant and carton in place gently firm the soil around the plant using your toes with a little pressure, as this will make sure there are no air pockets left in the back filled soil.
come spring as you water add another feed and again end of season in autumn.
By the following year IF there are no more new shoots or leaves, take your fore finger and thumb, gently scrape away a very small area of bark, if the wood still looks white, green healthy, your plant is OK, if it is dry, dead looking, remove these branches, cut them about 3-4 inches from main stem, by doing that and you now know the plant has recovered, you should get some more new shoots.

Azalea's like dapple shade, good humus rich acidic soil and add a mulch of leaf-mould every autumn AFTER a watering, this will give protection should frost linger at the shallow roots.
Please don't think this poor plant can be fixed over night as it has suffered over a long period under large trees sapping the life from the soil, it will be best to make the recovery slow but sure for it to gather strength and get going again.
Hope this helps a little and things pick up at stage one of the recovery.
Good luck and best Regards.

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Azaleas can be a bit spotty about re-sprouting from bare wood. If the plant has been growing strongly they seem to be able to do it. If the plant is struggling they do not seem to be able to break the dormancy of those buds.

I would continue trying to help them with fertilizer, water and mulch.

Try pruning a small area, no more than 25% of any one plant. Cut off a branch until it has only one or two leaves on it. I know on some they only have a couple of leaves, and that is out at the end. Still, try to find a place where there are some leaves lower down.
If you cannot find any leaves lower down, then cut anyway.
If the plant recovers, and sprouts below the cut, then you can keep on pruning the rest of the plant (perhaps 25% per session, and wait for some green to show before trimming another part).
If the plant does not recover it was a loss anyway, dig it up and toss it.

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