Published on 03/15/12

Azaleas need loving care to maintain their beauty

By Frank M. Watson

Azaleas in full bloom are a sign that spring has sprung in the South. Georgia’s unpredictable weather has blooms on the Southern favorite popping out early.

To keep azaleas at their best, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialists offer a few maintenance tips.

When azaleas complete their blooming season, it will be time to fertilize, prune and mulch.

Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or one especially formulated for acid-loving plants. Follow label directions carefully as azalea roots are located very close to the soil surface. Over fertilization can cause damage and plant death.

Overgrown limbs should be pruned out to restore the plant’s natural shape. Delaying pruning until later in the season can destroy next year's flower buds.

Lace bugs are the primary insect pest on azaleas. They feed on the leaves with their piercing-sucking mouthparts.

The upper sides of the damaged leaves show a whitish speckling caused by the insects feeding on the undersides of the leaves. Garden stores carry the necessary insecticides to control lace bugs.

Another problem occasionally seen on azaleas is iron deficiency. Sometimes iron deficiency is confused with lace bug damage. Iron deficiency gives the leaves a pale yellow appearance rather than the white speckling caused by lace bugs. Again, garden stores stock iron supplements that can be sprayed on the plants or applied to the soil to correct the problem.

To manage moisture, azalea plants need a good soaking of water once a week. A 3- to 4- inch layer of mulch in flowerbeds will conserve moisture and reduce weed competition.

For more information on home landscaping, contact your local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

Frank Watson is the University of Georgia Extension agent in Wilkes County, Ga.

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