Saturday, May 17, 2008

Help My Azaleas-Please!

This post is asking alot of you gardeners. I am hoping-so hoping for some help to save my azaleas!

I have a very old friend who lives here in town. Her name is Deb and she has gifted me with many grown, mature specimen plants which no longer fit into her landscape. I talked of the yuccas she gave me in the yucca post, but in addition to yuccas she has given me: roses, 'Helleri' hollies, and barberries.

The most recent acquisitions from Deb were azaleas. Deb decided these four pink azaleas no longer fit her idea of good foundation plants at her lovely home in Sango. She offered them to me and all I had to do was dig them out!

Mr. Fix-it was kind enough to help me dig these four foot tall azaleas last January. I am so glad he did help me as these azaleas had extensive root systems and were in place for many years.

I brought the four home and planted them in a nice raised bed out front of my home. Truthfully, I did not have much hope for their survival even BEFORE "The" late freeze and "The" drought. But survive they did. It wasn't until early this winter I began noticing a problem with the four azaleas. Two were yellow and looking kind of sad. These two were located on the side of the raised bed where I had had some wood chips left in place to decay. The two on the other side of the bed did not have as many wood chips mixed in with the soil they were growing in, and seemed to be doing well. The wood chips were from oaks. They are under a 2-3 inch layer of soil. The azaleas are planted in this mix.

I closely watched the sad azaleas and added all sorts of organic amendments. I added blood meal because I theorized the wood chips were removing all of the nitrogen from the soil, and I added fertilizer and Bayer Advanced Shrub and Tree Care. I tilled the soil and mulched the azaleas well. I ensured these azaleas were always watered and generally babied them. To this day they still look the same.

The two happy azaleas appeared to be OK. But then I noticed only one had buds. It is the one that bloomed WONDERFULLY in the first picture. I was so overjoyed with this azaleas! I only wish the other three would've also bloomed like this one. I love these azaleas because they are already full grown and large, and they are tried and proven in this locale. I am not a big fan of azaleas available for purchase in big box stores, as they are all hybrids and generally are going to stay small. I want big azaleas in my garden. Ones that will make a big impact in front of my house.

So I ask you what can be the problem and what can I do to save these azaleas? A bit of background information. The wood chips have been under the soil for nearly two years. The soil was trucked in and has been soil tested. The pH is around 6, phosphorous was normal, but the potassium count was off the chart. All other plants in this bed (hydrangeas, irises, hostas, campanulas, oak leafs and various perennials) are doing well. What is the problem? And since the azaleas have been here for 16 months, is there hope? Or are they going to die a slow and agonizing death? What are your suggestions and has anyone else run into this before?

in the garden....


  1. Tina, since I can't see them in person and I'm not an azalea expert, I can only talk about what I know. First of all, is the soil well draining? That's pretty important. Azaleas can survive in clay soil but they don't tend to flourish. They like to be moist but not wet. Second, azaleas do better if planted a little high. It's very important with them not to plant them too low. If they are on a little mound - 3-4 inches above the bed, that is a good thing. Finally, are these in sun all day? Azaleas do better in morning sun and dappled shade or shade in the afternoon. Sun might stress them (after the drought last year). All these are just guesses, but if these are taken care of, then it's something I don't know about.

    Oh, one last thing - with the leaves, do you see a darker green vein with a slightly yellowed leaf? If so, then they are chlorotic and could use some food - try Holly Tone - azaleas love it. And do you see tiny dark specks on the backs of the leaves? If so, then you may have lacebugs and they will need to be treated. Seems azaleas in full sun are more prone to lacebugs, but they are a widespread problem here in Maryland.

    Good luck!

  2. Kim,Thank you so much. Very helpful. I think the leaves may be a bit chlorotic and have not tried Holly Tone but will get some and add it in. I hope it works! I think this is the problem but I can't seem to stop it fast enough. urrr!

  3. P.S. Thanks for telling me your state. I find it SO helpful when looking at blogs. Maryland is a state I like very much as I have traveled thru it many times on my way to Maine. Very scenic especially the Chesapeake Bay area.

  4. Tina,

    No idea what could be going wrong with the Azaleas. I can share with you that my 10 yr old Coral bells expired overnight a few years ago.

    Can you post a close up shot of the leaves? It might help the azalea experts.

    Hope you are having a nice weekend!


  5. Good morning to all. Here in Maine it is dark and dreay but weather man says a tenth of an inch of rain to come. Darn, we need some rain.

    Tina, how about some ashes around them? Nothing to lose by trying.

    Hope everyone has a great day.

  6. I always thought that you had to use pine with azaleas, whether it was pine straw or pine mulch. That is what I have always heard and done anyway. And I am by no means any kind of expert. But it is something about the acid or something and they need it for feed, not hardwood mulch. Might be worth checking into.

  7. Yup, acid and you get great acid from the ashes also.

  8. Good morning Gail! Beautiful day isn't it? I will try to post an up close picture. Don't know why I didn't think of it!

    Mom, I will check that out. I do like the organic method and we have plenty of ashes.

    Jillybean, Lots of pine needles here and the soil is acid. But I could always add more! Cross your fingers they get better.

  9. Tina, watch you don't make it TOO acid. You might want to invest in a soil tester. While the ones at garden centers for about $20 aren't as good as sending the soil off, I've found mine to be pretty accurate. You can look up online what is optimum for azaleas. Again, good luck!

  10. Tina I have no idea what is wrong with your azaleas but I have lost 2 of my big azaleas closest to the road. Now the same thing is happening to the next in line. They just simply loose their leaves in the dieing process. I know they like acidic soil so I do that. There is a lot of huge oak trees in the neighbors yard which is beside my azaleas. So anything on the East side of my house is shaded by these huge trees. It only gets overhead sun. Maybe the oaks have something to do with the dieing. It would be a shame to loose them especially with their size. Mine are way over my head. I plan to trim them Tues. to see if that won't help. If I can reach the tops. lol lol

  11. Kim, It just might be the acidity now that I think about it. I am wondering if the decaying wood chips changed it? I will test it out and find one of those kits.

    Lola, It might be the acidity like Kim said. Have you had a soil test? Mine was done about two years ago but I think it may have changed in that time. If you've never had one. Check and see what it is and maybe you can save your azaleas. It is a shame to maybe lose them.

  12. Hi everyone --glad your back Jean. And, here I was thinking you were out to the ball game:) Sorry about the computer --we've had our share of computer issues this year with our Dell. But, hubby always manages to make it work for me:)
    Hi Lola -good to see you too!

    Hi Tina --I'll be patiently waiting to see if it was just the soil acidity. I'm just learning from you all:)

    It was a beautiful day today --older boys and daddy went to an Archery tournament --no winners but they all did well. The younger two played outside alot --baseball, scooters and of course a run with the mommy.

    The farmer is cutting his hay outback today so the entire house is sneezing and coughing. Clean out of claritin so we're using the generic allergy meds from wally world. This is way earlier than last year -so I know we've been getting a ton of rain in the area.

    Have a great night --see you all late tomorrow after church:)

  13. Exhausted..planted the mock orange , hostas, moved hydrangas and forsythias around, and finished raking.
    We really did not have a free day yesterday as my father in law had emergency surgery. Thought it was obstructed bowel but turned out it was a birth defect. Figures it would let him know at the age of 71.
    Nikki enjoyed the trip to boston, she brought back each one of us a gift. She got me a venus fly trap! So thoughtful, she is.
    Mom, going to see my father in law tom. leaving in the a.m., will call you. Zack has a ball game at 3:30 as he is playing town ball starting tom. Oay Vey.
    Next thing to do is get my arbor up over the steps at the rock wall, figure I'll have to us copper piping to keep it in the ground. SQUEEZING that pipe to dent the hold on the legs of the arbor. Night all.
    Oh, p.s. I don't have luck with azaleas but found out they like coffee grounds, don't know if that makes the soil acid or alkaline. Something to look into if need be.

  14. I'm not an azalea expert either, if fact I've never even grown one. I would like to though, so please keep us posted. I hope you're able to figure out the problem and fix it!

  15. Good morning all! Anonymous, I will surely let everyone know what is up with them and if they survive. Yesderday was an awesome day, excellent for archery-and a bit of sneezing:(

    Dawn, I can't wait to see your garden. Hope your father in law heals up quickly-a birth defect which rears its ugly head at 71!

    Cinj, I'll keep everyone informed for sure. Do azaleas grow up your way?

  16. Hi Tina, I was out of town and am behind on the posts. Be sure and DO NOT add wood ash to the azaleas as it is very alkaline. Wood ash should be added to peonies, lilacs dianthus, rosemary and lavender. Ironite is a product for chlorosis, but it may be that the drought and frost last year stressed them so much that there is nothing you can do. Drainage is important too, extra water is what I would do with them, but make sure about the drainage. Good luck.

  17. Hi Tina, I was out of town and am behind on the posts. Be sure and DO NOT add wood ash to the azaleas as it is very alkaline. Wood ash should be added to peonies, lilacs dianthus, rosemary and lavender. Ironite is a product for chlorosis, but it may be that the drought and frost last year stressed them so much that there is nothing you can do. Drainage is important too, extra water is what I would do with them, but make sure about the drainage. Good luck.