Tired of being cooped up indoors? Getting your Encore® Azaleas ready for spring is an excellent remedy to the winter blahs. Here are five tips to ready your shrubs for optimal health this spring.
1. Evaluate plant health
Examine your plants closely – checking them for brown leaves, exposed roots, or broken and crossed limbs.
Many Encore® Azaleas are cold hardy to USDA zone 6A, however some will still lose a few leaves during cold weather and a small amount of leaves may turn yellow. In temperate climates, brown leaves may be an indication of sunscald from lack of soil moisture.
2. Clean around base of shrubs
Begin by cleaning the area around the trunk and soil, taking care to protect Encore® Azalea's shallow roots. Winter weather may disturb even the most carefully applied protective mulch, so pull the mulch six inches away from the base of plants.
3. Remove damaged limbs
Freezing weather and fungus may harm azalea limbs, killing the tissue that conducts water and causing the bark to split. Stems may also break in winter wind.
Use sterilized hand pruning shears or loppers to remove damaged twigs and large dead stems. Cut back the affected limbs enough to expose live wood, checking for dead wood as you go. Cut no more than is absolutely necessary, leaving a healthy leaf bud at the top of the cut.
4. Evaluate irrigation
If you see leaves that have turned black or dark brown from the tip toward the petiole, there may be a problem with the watering schedule or soil drainage. While Encore® Azaleas need to be consistently moist, they will fall victim to root rot if the roots sit in water.
5. Wait to fertilize
When you see tiny buds on the plants, you may be tempted to fertilize your Encore® Azaleas, but it is still too early. Wait until after the flower buds burst open before applying any fertilizer.
Fertilizing too soon may cause a flush of growth that will be tender and vulnerable to late winter or early spring cold snaps.
Remember, your prep work now will pay off in the near future – when your Encore® Azaleas reward you with a lovely spring display!
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By Nancy Buley, J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., Wholesale Tree Growers
Photographs courtesy of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.
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