Ask a Question forum→Lack of Azalea blooms advice

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South Jersey (Zone 6b)
akanga11
May 12, 2020 5:03 PM CST
New member here. Thanks for the help. Pictured is this azalea I've had several years but gradually over the years it simply does not bloom anymore. I do have clay soil but was curious would an early summer prune help for the next season so I get a nice blooming bush? You can see on one side there's new growth. Thanks.


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Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
May 12, 2020 5:27 PM CST
If you prune it you could remove the buds producing growth for next year.
If this was my bush, in my yard, I would try fertilizer first.
Back on Long Island, I fertilized my flower beds, including azaleas, with Miracle Grow plant food. I had one of those contraptions on the end of a garden house. I would fertilize in early May, June, July and August. Two of mine were gifted to me by a friend who said that they outgrew his yard.
For me they grew well but did not flower well that first year. But since I fertilized them, they flowered so much better! It is worth a shot.
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Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
luis_pr
May 12, 2020 5:27 PM CST
Research these possibilities and see which one you think applies:

Deer may have grazed over the poor azalea. Or you might have pruned off the flower buds by pruning the azalea at the wrong time. Lack of water after bud set can also zap the flower. Very cold weather or late frosts can also kill flower buds. Adding too much of a nitrogen rich fertilizer makes the soil accumulate nitrogen and that eventually makes the plant produce nice foliage and few blooms. Dense shade can cause the azaleas produce few flower buds.

PS - since azalea roots are in the top 4" of the soil and they are tiny fibrous roots, I would get rid off the weeds growing around the azaleas.
South Jersey (Zone 6b)
akanga11
May 12, 2020 6:03 PM CST
Thanks folks. I have not fertilized the plant so I might give that a shot. Additionally, here in south jersey, particularly our area we have a severe deer problem and I have caught the deers grazing on the bush. I've historically never really pruned this azalea. My other azaleas bloom well regardless so I thought I'd inquire. And yes, I'm in the process of removing weeds. Mulch coming in a few weeks as well. The leaves are noticeably darker on one side of the plant but think that's because its more mature.
canada 4b (Zone 8a)
Dirtmechanic
May 12, 2020 6:24 PM CST
I think a systemic fungicide may be useful to you. Composted beds are also rotting beds and are thick enough to get some root issues going. Fungi will take on a root, and then the associated branch goes down. It has that look, but the pictures on my phone are a bit hard to see. You may be interested to use cornmeal, which attracts trichoderma, which in turns likes to eat other fungi but not the plants. I am not sure if azalea have certain fungi that they are prone to get or if a certain type is in your area of the world. That can be local knowledge and nurseries in the area may be aware.
South Jersey (Zone 6b)
akanga11
May 12, 2020 6:28 PM CST
Dirtmechanic, thanks I have removed some dead branches so that seems plausible. Ill take a look into grabbing some systemic fungicide. Thanks.
Name: one-eye-luke US.Vet.
Texas (Zone 8a)
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oneeyeluke
May 14, 2020 6:22 AM CST
You don't have a fungus problem you have a soil pH issue. When the plants were planted in the soil, it was amended with a acidic mix for a Azalea's. As time goes by the acidic mix changes from exposure to the elements, and the long term use of Tap water on the plant. The pH will shift to more of a alkaline state and growth will slow or even stop because of nutrient lock-out.

The way I fixed these Azalea's, was by removing the plant before Spring and change out the substrate with a mix of peat moss mixed with shredded pine bark and some osmocote 12-12-12 and replant. I had to do about every 5 to 7 years to all the Azalea's. . I hope that helps
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South Jersey (Zone 6b)
akanga11
May 14, 2020 12:24 PM CST
oneeyeluke, I'll check the acidity level of the soil. That azalea is around 25 years old so not looking to move the shrub at all. Would a soil acidifer work?
Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
luis_pr
May 14, 2020 1:47 PM CST
Comment: If your azalea needed an acidifier, I would have expected that you would have already purchased one... during those 25 years. If you never have used it then your soil is not sufficiently in need of one. You can ask a local nursery that is physically very close if they know whether your soil or theirs is alkaline or acidic. You can also look at gardens in the area for clues. Some people who plant hydrangeas in the garden will end with blue blooms but these normally open later in the growing season so there would not be one now. There are also cheapo test kits sold at Lowes, HD, atnd local nurseries.

If your leaves have a light green or yellow color but the leaf veins remain dark green, that is a sign of soil that is very alkaline and that needs to be acidified. That does not seem to be the case in the picture.

Comment: can you explain why the color of the leaves in the picture looks so dark, almost black?
South Jersey (Zone 6b)
akanga11
May 14, 2020 3:46 PM CST
luis_pr, my other azaleas have vibrant green healthy leaves so I'll check the soil out. I guess since I'm in quarantine I'm now focusing more on the garden unlike the past (guilty). I applied some systemic disease control powder yesterday. Fingers crossed. Here's a close up of the bush. You can tell deers have been snacking.
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Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
luis_pr
May 14, 2020 6:44 PM CST
Oh, I "see" better now. That looks like a bad infestation by insects! And they may already be gone because they tend to visit when leaf out starts. Lacebugs, aphids and other insects excrete honeydew, usually on the leaves' bottom surface, which attracts ants and promotes the development of a black sooty mold everywhere in leaves and branches. Once they are done, the insects vanish but leave the black sooty mold throughout all parts of the plant. The insects could also be located on another plant, if said plant is right above the azalea. The sooty mold -if that is what the blackish color is- does not feed on the plant and naturally falls down.... but at its own , very slow pace.

I had a light case of lacebugs a long time ago. The tops of the leaves had white dots, where the lacebugs sucked juice from and the bottom had black sooty mold spots. You have a much worse case of whatever insect is behind this. I caught my problem in time and used a systemic insecticide for 2-3 years in Spring.

You may able to combat the insects now (if they are still there) or in future years by releasing beneficial insects like ladybeetles or parasitic wasps at leaf out time. The ladybeetles are sold in many plant nurseries but the wasps tend to be in stock only at organic minded stores. A hard stream of water from your hose will also kill them because they tend to be snacking on the leaves at most times and the hard force of the water will literally break the rest of them off the leaves. Some of the insects, of course, will not be injured and will fall down (but they will climb back again) so, it pays to throw some water at the plant for several days in a row at the bush.
[Last edited by luis_pr - May 14, 2020 6:48 PM (+)]
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Name: Paula Benyei
NYC suburbs (Zone 6b)
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Turbosaurus
May 14, 2020 8:20 PM CST
I also think someone is pruning off your new growth that would put up buds... either gardeners or deer...
Prune them immediately after bloom time, and not again. If you cut them after late spring you'll remove the new growth that would otherwise bloom in the next spring.

The black spots are concerning, and you should look further into it.

The plants are clearly try hard to send up new growth from every edge, but if the deer keep taking them down Im not sure youll ever get flowers :(
The plural of anecdote is not data.
[Last edited by Turbosaurus - May 15, 2020 5:44 AM (+)]
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Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
luis_pr
May 14, 2020 9:14 PM CST
Yes, he said the deer had been "snacking". Hee, hee, hee. I am sooo glad I have not run into that deer problem here in this part of Texas. But akanga11 can use Plantskydd spray to deter them if needed be.
South Jersey (Zone 6b)
akanga11
May 14, 2020 9:20 PM CST
Thanks all for the help! I will look into all of the responses I received. And yes the deer here are absolute machines. Deer repellent just doesn't work. I've started applying the disease/fungal and insect control. Thank You!
Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
luis_pr
May 15, 2020 6:20 AM CST
Plantskydd is a somewhat new product that lasts long and does not need to be reapplied for a while. Of course, it does have to be reapplied when the plant produces new foliage but not after it rains for example. Someone from the PNW told me about it.
Name: Paula Benyei
NYC suburbs (Zone 6b)
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Turbosaurus
May 15, 2020 6:44 PM CST
You're kind of in a weird situation, because you're having new growth that would otherwise regulate Water uptake and any resulting fungus but as long as those get nibbled off, the plant can't really just grow well. I.e.. let the old leaves dies and new growth take over.

Before you blame the deer for all of it, Your shape appears so mechanical, so scaped, make sure overzealous Gardeners aren't shaping late in the season to accommodate grazing. I'm not saying they are, I'm only saying it wouldn't be the first time good intentions went sideways. Allowing a little bit of organic shape might help next years blooms
The plural of anecdote is not data.
South Jersey (Zone 6b)
akanga11
May 15, 2020 8:31 PM CST
Ill pick up that product! And you're right the azalea is very symmetrical from past years but the new shoots poking around were chewed up a few weeks ago. Saw on my home security camera the fellas munching. Needless to say Ill be using the extra free time to focus on my plants more this year. Thank You!

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