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How to Prune Azaleas

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017

Overgrown azaleas won't flatter your landscape as a truly splendid plant unless it's cared for properly. Azaleas have the reputation of being a low maintenance plant among gardeners. However, the wisest gardeners know that no plant is maintenance free. Your azaleas will look healthier throughout the season and put out an array of blooms each spring with proper care. This simple broadleaf shrub requires occasional pruning to look and perform well.

Schedule pruning immediately after blooming finishes in the spring to ensure plenty of flowers next spring. This allows the plant plenty of time to recover from any trimming during an entire growing season. Buds for the following year's flowers begin forming in the late spring.

Do not use hedge clippers to shape azaleas. The straight lines and boxed shape doesn't encourage pretty flowers. Abrupt cuts when pruning cause rapid growth at the sheared point on the branch. This results in oddly shaped shrubs. Hedge clippers should only be used on hedges.

Assemble and understand how to use your pruning tools. Use pruning clippers for small branches below 3/4 inches in width. Cut larger branches with pruning loppers or a saw. Make all cuts at a 45-degree angle to the main plant trunk.

Locate any dead areas on the shrub. Trim off damaged or dead wood before dealing with the rest of the plant.

Choose branches that extend beyond the natural shape of the azalea. Don't clip these branches flush with the surrounding foliage. Remove the entire branch with a 45-degree cut close to the trunk. This angled cut reduces the wound size for quicker healing. Continue removing the longest branches throughout the azalea shrub.

Thin the plant by choosing various branches to remove throughout the plant. Use the same angled cut as you used to remove the longest branches. Thinning opens up the interior of the plant, allowing new growth and fullness in the shady interior area of the shrub. Azaleas require thinning every 3 to 4 years for optimum health.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning clippers
  • Pruning loppers
  • Pruning saw


  • Azaleas bounce back nicely from major rejuvenation pruning. If your plant appears spindly (also called leggy in garden speak) with sparse leaves, cut the plant back to the ground to rejuvenate the entire azalea. New branches will form. Rejuvenation pruning might cause the plant to have limited blooms the first flowering season after pruning.