Azaleas and Rhododendrons: Care
Watering newly planted azaleas is essential, The root system is relatively shallow, so frequent watering may be required. Rhododendrons need the equivalent of one inch of rain every 7 to 10 days. Continue the watering schedule until early winter rains begin, but be careful not to allow the plants to become waterlogged. Keep in mind that backfills dry out much faster than the original soil around the plant.
A moderate, even level of fertility promotes good, steady growth. Use a fertilizer for acid loving shrubs such as . Slow release formulas are best and should be used according to package directions. Overfertilizing causes severe damage to plants. Signs of over-fertilization include sudden leaf drop and brown leaf tips. To prevent this type of damage, apply light feedings in March, May and July rather than one annual feeding.
Pruning helps to maintain an attractive, compact plant. Any heavy pruning should be done immediately after the flowering period. Tall, rangy limbs at the top of the plant should be removed down inside the body of the plant. To induce branching, pinch out tips of new growth between flowering and the first of July. Later pinching will reduce next year's flower production. Always remove any dead or injured branches.
When older plants become too large or awkwardly shaped, cut back the entire plant to 12-18 inches above ground level. The plant will regenerate rapidly if the soil is kept moist after pruning.