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Old 02-29-2008, 06:06 PM
 
Location: The Great State of Arkansas
5,981 posts, read 15,392,128 times
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Help. Just plain help. Raised in the South and quite lost.

We moved into an 1870's home ithin the past year that has OLD azaleas out front. We lived next door to this house for 6 years (another story for another day). Every year the azaleas seemed to put on less of a show but they weren't my problem.

This year they are my problem. Doing some reading and looking at pictures, I believe we possibly have a phosphorus deficiency. So I bought some azalea food, but everything I am reading says don't feed them until after they are through blooming??? I'm a little confused on that - if they need it, they need it....don't they? Don't ask me about species or anything - there are several kinds out there, mostly small leaf evergreen.

I started a compost heap last fall and have a pretty good supply of composted material and almost-but-not-quite decomposed material...incidentally, there is no mulch on these beds, but there never has been.

What to do?
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Old 02-29-2008, 06:43 PM
Status: "Celebrating 56 plus..." (set 28 days ago)
 
Location: Out there somewhere...
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If you are past the frost season, then feed it with acid loving plant fertilizer such as Miracid. Water thoroughly but don't drown them. Use a moisture meter, it will tell you when to water and show you how often. They are avaiable for around $6.00 at most garden centers.
Azaleas are acid lovers and like a moist humid type of environment. That's why they do great along the coast of Oregon and Washington.
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Old 02-29-2008, 07:16 PM
 
Location: Jax
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1870's? How cool!

Now my house doesn't seem so old....I just moved as well, back into my 1940's home.

I also did some major clearing out of the backyard. I took out all the azaleas but one since they were looking lanky and barely bloomed. I figured they were original to the home and had seen the end of their lifespan....shrubs just don't live as long as trees.

So I just wanted to throw that possibility out there - the azaleas may be at the end of their lifespan.

My books say that here in zone 9A we can feed the azaleas once in March, May and September, so it sounds like you'll be able to fertilize very soon as well. I've never heard about waiting until after the azaleas bloom, but that make sense.

It wouldn't hurt to put some Epsom Salts down too. The Epsom salts will help the azaleas to absorb and use nitrogen and phosphorous. I also like Milorganite as an all-around fertilizer. Milorganite is rich in iron which helps to green things up (especially good if you see yellow leaves).

This is also the time to prune. As soon as the azaleas are finished blooming, you can give them a rejuvenation pruning (once every 3-5 years). Try to prune just after flowering, but before there is too much new growth.

Azaleas like:

acid soil
moisture (they are not very drought tolerant)
filtered sun
mulch (keeps the roots cool....especially important if they have more than filtered sun)

Hope that helps!
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Old 03-01-2008, 06:57 PM
Status: "Celebrating 56 plus..." (set 28 days ago)
 
Location: Out there somewhere...
37,549 posts, read 41,897,612 times
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Epsom salts are 'manganese sulfate' and yes they do help with plant growth. strength and production. You can find manganese sulfate in many fertilizers at garden centers if you want an all around balanced fertilizer, one that contains nitrogen and trace elements too for a happier plant.
Milorganite is banned in many areas as it contains cancer causing elements.
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Old 03-01-2008, 07:07 PM
 
Location: Alabama!
5,719 posts, read 14,965,300 times
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Sam, I believe azaleas set their buds quite early, say, late fall or early winter. So you probably won't see many flowers this year. But mulching them well with compost, feeding (at the proper time, after they bloom) will certainly help. If the foliage is yellow-ish, Miracid will bring back that dark green color. Do they need to be trimmed back a bit? It's possible...do it right after they bloom (that's why you don't trim them right now - you'd be trimming away the buds). Definitely mulch - especially with the drought conditions we've been having. Azaleas need water during the winter, too, and their roots are so shallow they need more frequent watering, which of course you can lessen by mulching well. Composted mulch is even better!
Another thing to consider is how much sun they're getting. As a former old house owner, I can attest that the trees grow tall and sometimes prevent shrubbery from getting enough sun. Yes, I know azaleas bloom in the shade, but even shade-loving plants need a bit of sun! Trim branches up high so more sunlight will filter to the shrubs.
You can always get a Southern Living garden/shrub guide for good advice, and for more, contact your county extension agent. Those folks are wonderful and very helpful. They might suggest a soil analysis. We used to have to get a kit from the extension agency, fill up a box with dirt and send it off to Auburn University (Alabama's ag college) and wait two or three weeks for results...now I think you can get a kit at any good garden center and do it all yourself.
There are lots of other good shade-loving plants you're probably familiar with - hosta, impatients, begonias, caladiums (caladii?)...all good companions to azaleas.
Best of luck!
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Old 03-01-2008, 08:18 PM
 
Location: The Great State of Arkansas
5,981 posts, read 15,392,128 times
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I think the county agent is going to have his hands full with me!

The trees have been recently trimmed, so I don't think that is so much the problem...it actually does really look like a nutritional deficiency of some sort.

Oh yes, I already have all the hostas and caladiums in, I put them in last year - I'm going to put the ... what are they called, the African begonias?...well, whatever, the bigger ones in the areas that get the most light. We brought a bunch of plants with us when we moved and just threw them in the ground and wished them well last summer...this will be the year to actually figure out where they need to go. I do so hope we aren't losing these shrubs...they've been terribly neglected at the very least. Maybe the new loving owners can save them!

Oh yeah...thanks for the Epsom salt thing...I remember now! The perils of old age...

I ACHE FOR SPRING!
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Old 03-01-2008, 11:33 PM
 
Location: Jax
8,204 posts, read 30,744,955 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nitram View Post
Milorganite is banned in many areas as it contains cancer causing elements.
Really? This the first I've heard of that. I know there's the question of just how organic it is or isn't, but I did not know it was banned. They carry it in all of our Lowe's here.
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Old 03-02-2008, 05:37 PM
 
Location: Piedmont NC
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Sam I Am, your yard sounds quite lovely, and very Southern with the hostas and caladiums, and the beautiful old azaleas.

You've gotten some great advice from these Guys. I would only add that you should keep mulch on the azaleas. Do it several times if you have to, pine straw now, again during the summer, and again in fall before it gets too cold. The azaleas will benefit from the acid in the pine straw, and they do struggle if they don't have enough moisture.
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Old 03-02-2008, 05:58 PM
 
Location: The Great State of Arkansas
5,981 posts, read 15,392,128 times
Reputation: 7499
I will be reduced to BUYING pine straw, believe it or not...the only huge pine tree in the neighborhood was taken out by a bolt of lightning a couple of years back.

I planted a ton of Pride of Mobile azaleas when we lived in the house next door and mulched the foo out of them with pine straw, amended the soil, fed them, prayed for them....and they have never done ANYTHING. I put them in during the spring of 2002, I think it was. The neighbors in the ex-house are wanting to know what to do about them - I guess we will all learn together.

Thanks for all ya'lls advice. I am curious as to why everything says to wait until after they bloom to feed them, but I guess that's to help set the buds for the next year. I'm going to chance it, it looks like they need all the help they can get. I'll post pix if spring ever gets here...75 today, looking at 2 inches of snow on Tuesday. Just when you get your hopes up!
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Old 03-03-2008, 07:54 PM
 
Location: Piedmont NC
4,597 posts, read 9,943,839 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam I Am View Post
I am curious as to why everything says to wait until after they bloom to feed them, but I guess that's to help set the buds for the next year.
Exactly, Sam I Am.

Can't imagine why the Pride of Mobile azaleas aren't doing anything to speak of -- they aren't around, or under, oaks, are they? I have seen azaleas do poorly in a setting like that. Do they get enough sunshine? Equally as important is not too much sun.

Maybe someone else can help with that one.
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