Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for: April 9, 2018
Azaleas have been on a roller coaster ride. During our first snow back in early December, I had blooms on my old fashion, spring blooming Formosa azaleas. I had blooms again when it snowed the second time. In spite of that, they still managed a significant spring bloom and were all but finished by Easter.
While I was removing some vines from my azaleas, I noticed azalea leaf gall. It easily catches your eye as it appears to be a thick fleshy azalea leaf or flower. It can show up in either plant part and will be green, white or pink in color depending on its stage. The leaf will usually look curled.
Azalea leaf gall is an unattractive fungal disease. When the gall matures it drops spores to the ground and then you have a source for next year. This is why you tend to see the same azalea plants with galls year after year.
There is no good chemical control for azalea leaf gall since timing and weather hinder your best efforts. The practical approach is to pick the galls off and throw them in your garbage can. If you let the galls fall to the ground or if you throw them on the ground, you are providing a source for the problem again next year so send them to the landfill.
Early April is a good time to go in and spruce up azalea beds. Remove weeds and vines. Vines can be a real problem in azaleas and other shrubs, particularly when they are planted under trees. Birds eat berries of all kinds, including those of vining plants. They fly up in tree branch as to eat and then expel seeds right in the middle of the flowerbed. That is why you get so many muscadine, trumpet vine, Virginia creeper, poison ivy and green briar vines growing in those fertile beds.
Vines create a real challenge because they establish quickly and have an extensive root system that you cannot just pull up. The vines break as you pull and regenerate quickly.
The best approach to vines is to cut them with a sharp pair of pruning shears as close to the ground as possible. Then use one of the ready to use (RTU) herbicides that you apply directly to the fresh cut of individual weeds. The active ingredient that I like is triclopyr. You can find it in an easy to use applicator container under names such as Stump and Vine Killer with no mixing required. Just squeeze the bottle and dab a little on the fresh cut vine or tallow tree.
After removing weeds, mulch and fertilize. Recommended rates would be about ½ cup of 8-8-8 fertilizer or the equivalent per square yard of bed area.
Azaleas can be pruned once they have completed their spring blooming cycle, if necessary. I would take advantage of any cooler weather to perform this task. Azaleas will set flower buds later in the spring so you will need to complete this task before that occurs. You do not want to cut off next year’s flowers. Azaleas obviously cannot read the calendar correctly, so I would have any pruning accomplished by the end of May to avoid problems.
For those of you who have azaleas that bloom twice or three times a year, it becomes more problematic. Those varieties seem to stay a lot closer to the advertised size and require less pruning. If they do need to be pruned, I would prune in the spring just as other varieties but do it right after they finish their spring blooming.