The Q&A Archives: What is causing my azalea bushes to die?

Question: Over the past couple of years, our azalea bushes have had problems with entire branches of leaves turning brown and dying. The branches have had to be pruned, making the shrubs look thin and sickly. Is this problem due to soil acidity? If so, what is the fastest and most effective method of treatment? What else could be contributing to the problem. The shrubs were doing great dor more than 20 years, so I am at a loss as to why this suddenly has been happening. Your assistance would be most appreciated.

Answer: Greg,

Your shrub's symptoms seem to point to a root related problem. I would suspect a root rot organism such as phytophthora may be killing the plants. This disease is more of a problem when soil stays saturated for days at a time. Good drainage is one method of avoiding the disease. In order to be sure what is causing the problem however, I suggest you contact your County Extension Office and see how they can help diagnose the problem. They may have you bring in some photos of the plants and may have a diagnostic service at the university lab. In that case you may need to dig up a plant that is almost completely dead (but still has some living branches) for sending to the state lab to see if they can identify them for you.

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