"Why are my azaleas not blooming better?" Have you been asking yourself this question? You're not alone, as it's a common concern. Be prepared to do a little research, because there are a number of potential problems to consider.
One reader writes, "I have two old azaleas that have slowed down in flower production this year. I noticed that one azalea grew and leafed out just fine, but didn't produce any flowers. I've treated my azaleas with Holly-tone. I checked the soil pH, which was neutral, so I applied 8 oz of sulphur. What else can I do to improve production of azalea flower buds...?"
Your train of thought certainly seems to be right on target: you made good decisions to deal with soil pH and to use the Holly-tone fertilizer. So let me just list a few other factors to check:
1.Location: I realize you've had the plants a long time, but it never hurts to double-check that they are properly located. Nearby trees grow over time, increasing shade levels; or, conversely, if you've lost any nearby trees or had them removed, your azaleas will be getting more sun than they used to.
Some types of azaleas like a bit of shade, as well as some protection from winds. But when located in excessive shade, azaleas may produce a lot of greenery but fewer blooms.
2.Watering: Delicate balance here. Azaleas can't be allowed to dry out, but they don't like "wet feet" either. Mulching can help with water retention and protecting the roots from the heat (but your mulch layer shouldn't be any deeper than 2-3 inches).
3.Fertilizer: While the Holly-tone's a good choice, stay away from fertilizers high in nitrogen, which will spur foliage growth but interfere with blooming.
4.Pruning: Did you change your pruning habits last year? For azaleas, the current year's blooms stem from flower buds developed during the prior summer. If you pruned later than normal last year, you may have inadvertently removed the flower buds.
5.Weather: Try to remember what the weather's been like over the past year. I know that's a lot to ask (I myself have trouble recalling yesterday's weather sometimes), but it could hold the key to your problem.
- Was the weather hot and dry last summer? Drought can destroy azalea flower buds.
- Was the weather especially cold this past winter? This is another condition responsible for killing azalea flower buds.
- Conversely, lack of cold weather (see chilling requirement) can sometimes result in a plant's not blooming.
- Were there any unseasonably warm periods in the fall or spring? Sometimes, azaleas are tricked into blooming during these periods (so-called "bud blast"). After such premature blooming, those azalea flower buds are lost to you for the next blooming season.
Note: A type that I especially like is the Stewartstonian azalea.
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