How to Prune Azaleas (Expert Guide)

Last Modified

February 23, 2023 by Hirah Ehsan

Knowing how to prune azaleas is an easy process that will pay off in the long run. The result will be a healthy set of plants that will continue to add color to your garden for a long time to come. 

There’s no denying the fact that azaleas are among the most popular flowering plants in the landscaping of homes. There are many garden tour groups and festivals throughout the United States that celebrate these colorful shrubs.

Azaleas aren’t fussy, so you can probably grow them in your garden if you like their vibrant colors. Azaleas are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, so they can grow anywhere except in the hottest climates.

The blooms of azaleas come in shades of white, pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, and more. Usually, they bloom between mid-April and May, and are a sure sign that spring is just around the corner.

In North America, most azaleas are deciduous, which means their leaves fall off in the fall when the temperature begins to cool. One exception is Encore azaleas, a hybrid between an azalea and a rhododendron that blooms all year and can take a bit of heat.

Azaleas grow anywhere from two to ten inches a year, according to the Azalea Society of America (ASA). You can keep them for decades if you don’t let them get sick or infested.

Some specimens in Japan date back hundreds of years! Use these tips when pruning azaleas to keep them looking their best, and you will find that your plants will thrive.

When to Prune Azaleas

When it comes to azaleas, timing is crucial if you want them to bloom at their best next year. A large proportion of azalea plants bloom on old wood, which means that the buds are produced on the last year’s growth.

Ensure you’ll enjoy a riot of flowers next summer by putting up your clippers after spring. Azaleas must be pruned within three weeks of finishing blooming and discoloration and shrinkage.

This will give the azaleas ample time to develop flower buds in preparation for the next season. When you prune later in the summer or late in the fall, the flower buds may be cut off and you will only get green leaves next year.

What is the Need for Pruning Azaleas

In most cases, it is usually unnecessary to prune azaleas, so you do not need to do so. This low-maintenance plant should produce beautiful flowers year after year with little maintenance required. 

However, your azalea may also be overgrowing and blocking your view of the rest of your yard if it reaches monstrous proportions. Alternatively, the shrub does not seem to produce as many flowers as it did in the past.

You may need to rejuvenate azaleas if they get too leggy. The purpose of pruning is to improve air circulation, prevent diseases, and encourage the new growth of plants.

Furthermore, it can allow the plant to be shaped in a way that is best suited to the place in your yard where it is growing.

How to Prune Different Types of Azaleas

Azaleas are known for their showy flowers covering the spring plants with large, showy blooms. As they grow well in shade and add a brilliant burst of color in spring to any border, they are an excellent choice for shrubs in shaded areas. 

The first thing you need to do is figure out which type of azaleas you have. Even though they’re in the same family, pruning rhododendrons is different:

Evergreen azaleas

This type of azalea grows to about 18-30 inches (40-80cm) in height, including dwarf varieties. Almost all evergreen azaleas come from Asia.

Deciduous azaleas

A variety of azaleas are deciduous, meaning that their leaves drop in the fall and some of them change color from golden to reddish brown and flaming red in the fall. North American species are primarily deciduous.

Following the determination of whether your plant is an evergreen or a deciduous shrub, the next step is to determine how to prune your azaleas. The only pruning you need to do on deciduous azaleas is to remove diseased and damaged stems.

Evergreen azaleas need only be pruned if they’re growing over a pathway or if they’ve grown over a dead branch.

According to the American Rhododendron Society, choosing the right variety and planting them where they won’t need lots of pruning is the first rule for evergreen azalea pruning.

Step-by-Step Pruning of Azaleas

The beauty of Azalea blooms has made them popular since Victorian gardens began. Here’s how to prune azaleas:

  • Cut each branch individually with pruning spears or hand pruners.
  • If your plant has outgrown its shape, cut back the branches.
  • You can cut off a branch at a natural spot so that it will regrow nicely and round.
  • Ensure that you remove all dead, damaged, or crossing shoots.
  • Branches that are damaged beyond a leaf and branches that have died at their roots should be removed.

It is recommended that you leave some leaves on the shoot when pruning back. This will promote better branching from the buds that are close to the leaves.

If you have Azaleas, how often should you trim them?

The experts at Millais Nurseries recommend regular light pruning of azaleas after flowering to improve their habits. A huge azalea in front of a driveway or path may need to be controlled, especially if it’s a front-of-house shrub.

How to Rejuvenate Azaleas by Pruning

If an azalea bush appears spindly or sparse, prune three to five of its largest branches to rejuvenate it. The branches should be trimmed by a third to a half. If you would like to shape the plant, trim the rest of the plant’s branches as if you were shaping it.

If you know how and when to prune azalea bushes, you will be able to keep your azalea bushes healthy and looking amazing. It is important to prune azaleas to maintain their beauty.

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