How To Prune Azaleas: Tips & Tricks To Make It Easier

Azaleas are beautiful plants belonging to the Rhododendron family ; however, they often require a lot of care and attention in order to survive and thrive.

If you are considering planting an Azalea on your garden or patio property, but aren’t sure where to start with them, then this guide will help you take some big steps towards success.

When it comes to pruning your azaleas, there is no set rule that can tell you exactly when to do it.

However, if you are planning a full-scale cleanup of your plant landscape, it would be wise to give your azaleas proper time to recover from last year’s pruning schedule before bringing them into full bloom next spring.

However, before you can even prune your azaleas, there is something important you need to know about them.

How to Prune Azaleas

What Azaleas Do You Have?

You need to know if you have deciduous or evergreen azaleas. Deciduous azaleas are typically taller and lose their leaves when the seasons turn to fall.

The leaves of these plants will change along with the rest of the world before falling. These azaleas are predominant in North America. Evergreen azaleas, on the other hand, are usually smaller, and grow to be only 30 inches tall.

These plants are typically found in Asia, and are also known as Japanese azaleas.

Only once you know which type of azalea you have, can you begin to determine how to prune them. Generally, there is a rule to follow with these two plants:

  • Deciduous azaleas – only need to be pruned to get rid of damaged or diseased stems
  • Evergreen azaleas – only need to be pruned to cut them down to size or shape them, or to remove any dead wood.

Step-By-Step Guide To Pruning Azaleas

To easily prune your azaleas, all you need to do is:

1) Get sharp pruning spears

2) Cut branches individually

3) Use the shears to get rid of any branches that do not go with the shape you want the plant to be. 

4) Be careful to only cut the branches at natural places and bends. This way, the plant can redirect the growth instead of growing back out in the same direction.

5) Carefully cut off any damaged or dead branches. You should also get rid of crossing shoots.

If you need to get rid of dead branches, cut them off at the origin of the dead part. For damaged branches, find the area where it is broken and cut it at the break point, as well as above the leaf. 

When Should You Prune Your Azaleas?

Evergreen azaleas should be pruned during the early summer months. Light pruning should take place as soon as the blooms have disappeared in the spring.

It is not advised to prune these plants in the late summer or fall, as you could accidentally cut off the next flower buds. As a general rule, you shouldn’t be pruning your azaleas after mid-summer.

If, however, you want to do any heavy pruning, this should be done in the late winter and early spring. In the case of light pruning, you should do it regularly to ensure that the plant stays healthy.

Pruning after flowering will not only improve the shape of the plant, but it should help keep any sickness away.

How Much Should You Prune Azaleas?

This is largely down to personal preference and necessity. However, the amount of pruning you are physically able to do is likely going to be down to the plant itself.

Older plants may be more difficult to prune, but if it is becoming unsightly and needs a lot of work, you will need some elbow grease.

When plants become unattractive or do not look as healthy as they could be, radical action is sometimes required, and this comes in the form of heavy pruning. 

It should be noted that azaleas that are heavily pruned are very unlikely to flower the following year. This is because the stems and branches that would produce the flowers will have been cut off and the plant needs to recover.

As sad as this might be, it will be worth it when the plant makes a comeback and looks better than ever. When you do any heavy pruning, you won’t need to do it again for a very long time.

Simply stay on top of regular, light pruning, and your azalea will look incredible for years to come. 

Pruning Overgrown Azaleas

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your precious plant is give them an extreme makeover. If your azalea looks like it could be past their prime, it’s time for some harsh trimming.

Pruning Overgrown Azaleas

If you need to do this, try to get it done in the late winter or early spring. Branches will need to be cut back so that they are 12 inches above the ground.

When the plant starts to grow again, make sure to prune the ends of strong branches back about 6 inches.

This will encourage the azalea to branch out, giving a better appearance.

If you don’t feel like giving your azalea a buzz cut, you can spread the pruning process across several months or seasons.

This is typically done over a three-year period, so it’s a big commitment! However, it will result in a more attractive plant from the start instead of cutting everything back.

To do the gradual pruning, you should cut around 1/3 of the biggest azalea branches to anywhere between 6-12 inches from the ground.

Ideally, this should happen in the early spring, then do the next third the following year, and the final third a year later. After three years, all the old wood will be gone, and your plant will be healthy and full of new growth.

Final Thoughts

Pruning azaleas is super easy and gets amazing results. If you have been putting off the pruning process, there’s no need to be scared about it! If you prune your azaleas, you will only get a healthy and happy plant.

By leaving your azaleas to grow unchecked, you are only creating more work for yourself in the future. Eventually, these plants will need to be reeled in, especially if they are near places like sidewalks, paths, and roads.

A little care now will save you lots of frustration later. Hopefully, by reading this article, you’ll know how to keep your azaleas looking magnificent. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Big Do Azalea Bushes Get?

The largest azalea bushes reach up to 8 feet tall. You can expect to see bushier varieties that are 4-5 feet tall with red berries or yellow blooms.

The bushes that are grown for potting are generally less bushy. These shrubs tend to be smaller at around 3-4 feet tall. 

How To Spot A Dead Branch On An Azalea?

You can spot a dead branch on an azalea by watching the underside of the leaf. Dead tips usually have brown leaves, while green ones show signs of life.

There may also be a wilted area under the leaf, which indicates poor growing conditions or insects attacking the plant. 

What Can You Use To Prune An Azalea?

Pruning shears or hedge trimmers will work well to prune overgrown plants and an azalea branch 

How Many Azalea Varieties Are There?

There are thousands of different kinds of azalea bushes available online, but most people choose one of two main types: Evergreens and Spring beauties. 

What Pruning Tools Do You Need To Prune An Azalea?

Simple pruning shears are great for azalea pruning. Make sure your pruning shears are sharp.

How Often Should You Do Regular Pruning For Your Azaleas?

Regular pruning ensures a long-lasting plant. Prune every few summers to maintain a nice shape.

How frequently should you do major pruning for your azaleas?

Major pruning should only be done when the plant needs it. This might only be every few years.

Are Asian azaleas different to American azaleas?

Asian azaleas are usually shorter than American azaleas. They are also frequently evergreen plants.

Morgan Daniels

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