The Q&A Archives: Azalea Leaves Turning Pale Green

Question: I have two large azalea that seem healthy except that they both have developed areas where the leaves are considerably lighter in color than those on the rest of the plant. This year, some branches have turned brown. I inspected them and don't see any insects. Do you know what the problem is, or at least have some clues about what I should be looking for?

Answer: Spider mites are a possible culprit. They are hard to see -- try holding a sheet of paper below a yellowed branch and tap it. The tiny mites should appear as dark specks against the white paper. Mites usually attack plants that are suffering from moisture stress. Hosing off the plants every few days will help keep mites in check. Also, be sure the plants are watered regularly and deeply if nature doesn't provide. Azaleas don't like to have their roots sitting in water, but they equally dislike drying out. They also need acidic soil in order to thrive. You may want to test your soil to check the pH. Too high a pH can cause an overall yellowing of foliage.

Fungal twig canker is another possibility. Canker diseases infect stems and twigs to creating sunken, dying lesions on the bark. Check the branches that are turning yellow for lesions. Once a branch begins dying back, there is no cure. Just prune out and destroy all affected branches. Sanitize pruners between cuts with rubbing alcohol to prevent spread of the disease.

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