anemic azalea

springfield area, MO(Zone 5b)

my azalea looks, well... anemic?
It has scrawny leaves that are very pale in color, almost yellowish.
I am afraid it is dying.
We have had enormous rainfall lately and cool temps with lots of wind.
I never fertilize it or do anything to it.
But I never have had to. It has always bloomed and did nice for me.
It is probably 4 years old, I think.

any ideas?

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Too much rain too fast causes the soil pH to change to neutral or alkaline and some azaleas/rhodies/etc react with signs of iron chlorosis. It should be a short-term kind of a thing that self-corrects but, if the leaves continue yellowish with the veins dark green then feel free to amend the soil with your favorite amendment. Liquid iron chelated compounds, green sand, etc. You can also buy one of those cheap pH meters to keep an eye on the soil acidity if you want. It does not have to be exact since you only care to notice that the pH is reverting back to what is normal for your soil. Some evergreen azaleas will also loose some leaves around this time and these could be a sign of the old leaves falling off. Keep them well mulched with 3-4" of acidic mulch; that is where they get most of their food from.

springfield area, MO(Zone 5b)

ok that's what I thought but wasn't sure.
thanks!

Gilbert, AZ

I've been looking for the answer to this question....or where to ask it.

My mom was getting ready to throw away an azalea plant she had been given - I think bought in a grocery store. I'm a sucker for plants on their last, uh, branch. This one is losing leaves, has had a little new growth that is brown and crispy on the edges and I suspect that the soil is too wet.

Now what? Help!

springfield area, MO(Zone 5b)

mine died. It's just dead, so I am going to dig it out.

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Try to determine if the root ball feels dry, moist or wet. When the root ball dries out, it can be difficult to moisten and people have to dunk the plant in water until the root ball absorbs water or use a very very slow drip method for several hours to remoisten the root ball. The reason for taking these drastic actions is that, once a certain threshold is crossed, it becomes dificult if not impossible to save the root ball and the plant.

If the root ball does not feel dry then use the finger method to maintain the soil as moist as possible and practical. Not wet and not dry. Sounds easy but it can be difficult. On a daily basis, check the soil moisture by inserting a finger to a depth of 4". If it feels dry or almost dry then water and make a note in a wall calendar. After 1-2 weeks of doing this, review the calendar information and determine how often you water. Then set the sprinkler system to water 1g on the same frequency (every 2/3/4/5 days). To make sure that you do not have to water too often, maintain about 3-4" of acidic mulch,

If the planting location does not drain well then transplant it to another location. You can also use raised beds or grow it in a pot. You could also temporarily grow it in a pot until it recovers.

Gilbert, AZ

What do you use for acidic mulch? (I live in Arizona where the soil is alkaline and use leaves or compost for mulch usually) Do I need acidic mulch for my potted azalea? Checked the soil and it was wet through and through - perhaps too wet?

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Hello, Crista. On bushes that prefer acidic soil (hydrangeas, etc), you can use any type of organic mulch, In the case of azaleas, I would be more selective and use acidic mulches. Their roots grow on the top 3" of the pot and become more sensitive to alkaline conditions on a long term basis. Something like pine bark mulch or pine needles should work fine, If they are not readily available or if they too expensive then use regular mulch but apply some iron chelated compounds "often" to maintain an acidic pH. If the plant shows signs of iron chlorosis, that is a giveaway sign that it is time to apply that type of amendment. Make notes in a wall calendar indicating how often you end up applying this amendment and observe the frequency after "a while" (are you applying it every 3/4/5/6/etc months). Then become proactive by applying it a month or so earlier. The constant watering that potted plants need results in fertilizers and amendments leeching out so do this "often".

Oh, and yes, it sounds like the soil may be too wet. Potting soil usually drains well so unless you had watered minutes earlier, gosh, do you have any idea as to why it is so wet?? Does the pot have draining holes? If not switch pots or make some hols so the water can drain out into a plastic plate. If the plate fills up, reduce the amt of water that you apply & add the excess water to another potted plant or any plant outside.

Gilbert, AZ

Thanks luis_pr! The pot my azalea is in has holes in the pot --- I suspect what is happening is that the plant is dying so it's not uptaking any of the water from the soil. Would it be too traumatic - as in sending it over the edge - to repot it in lighter soil

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

You could but it may needing water quite often too. Almost every to every other day (or every day) in dry areas where the lack of humidity makes the water evaporate fast and makes nurseries have to water their azaleas daily. Make sure you have some mulch to combat this problem but if large sections start browing fast then drastic measures may be needed. There is a point at which azaleas just sort of give up and then completely brown out. Prior to getting bad, the root ball starts drying out and the water that falls on it just does not get absorbed. Hard to say if this is happening but you can insert a finger and peek around where the root ball is; carefully though as the roots do not like being distrubed. People then pull the plant out and dunk it in water until they can verify that the root ball has absorbed water. Then they put the plant back in the hole. If it recovers then change the potting mix in the Spring.

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