The Q&A Archives: Leafless Azalea

Question: I have a small azalea in a pot on my porch. It just finished blooming, but when the flowers fell off, so did most of the leaves. It had looked perfectly healthy until that time. Now it sort of bare & stalky, with just a few new leaves growing here & there. Could this have been caused by overwatering (I was away & had someone watering the plants)? More to the point, is there anything I can do, such as pruning it, or fertilizing it, to promote growth of new leaves?

Answer: You could be describing the symptoms of root rot (overwatering), or the results of underwatering. Plants in containers require watering much more frequently than plants in the ground. As long as the soil is quick-draining, watering as often as necessary to keep soil from completely drying out shouldn't cause root rot. I suspect the plant dried out on more than one occasion and you are just now seeing the symptoms. Don't fertilize at this point - you could further stress an already stressed plant. Do check to see if there's life in the stems and branches, however. Simply scrape the bark away with your thumbnail. Green tissue beneath the bark means there's life in the stem (and hope for the plant). Brown tissue means it's dead. You can prune back dead stems and branches until you get to live wood. This should promote new growth. Water regularly, cross your fingers, and let's hope your azalea will regain its health!

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