Azalea bushes

greetings all...
I just found this group and have a question about Azaleas.
I have several in my yard. They are one of the varieties that grow very tall, and they are fuschia colored, very beautiful right now for Easter. When we moved into our house 12 years ago, they had been literally cut back to the ground and were only stumps that I had no idea what they were until the next year. I felt pity for them being cut back to the ground and allowed them to grow wild with no trimming until now. I have several spots that the branches died back last year, and also, one of the bushes is probably 10 feet tall. The other main one is about 7 feet tall. One of my coworkers that is knowlegable in plants tells me that it will not hurt the plants to cut them back to the ground- is this true? Or should I just try to trim them back to a manageable height and trim out some of the inner branches to allow light? I love the way they look right now and am loathe to do anything that will do them harm.
Thanks for any information
Vicky
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You answered your own question.
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Travis in Shoreline Washington


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Thanks everyone for the advice. After reading all of your different bits of advice, I think I will leave them mostly alone, just trim out the dead branches and scraggly tall ones. I did have one that the main bush died for some reason last year. But there are a few new branches coming up from the middle, and there are small azaleas all around the edge, where the low hanging branches had rooted themselves. I would like to dig them up and move some of them, but think I will leave them until next spring, I am worried that I have already missed the window for moving them this year. But we did trim back the dead bush as far as our pruning shear would let us.
Thanks so much for the advice.
Vicky
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Hi Vicky,
The branches that rooted around the edge rooted by a process called layering. When the roots are strong, cut the connection to the main plant and give them time to get established. Before moving them, do what is called root pruning. That is going around the plant with a spade cutting down around the area that you want dig up and transplant eventually. You don't disturb the soil other than just cutting down to cut any roots that extend out beyond the drip line. This helps the plants form a nice dense root ball that is easy to transplant.
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On Fri, 6 Apr 2007 22:43:57 -0500, "arkienurse"

You can trim them back after they bloom or leave them alone. They like to be mulched--pine needles are a good choice for azaleas as they have a shallow tender root system and like acidic conditions. Most of my azaleas get "trimmed" by the deer, leaving very little bloom but I still like the foliage. I have seen some azaleas trimmed such that they look like a silly ball. If they look good to you, leave them to grow naturally which is my personal preference.
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I am guessing that you are talking about evergreen azaleas rather than a deciduous azalea.
Several points:
If they are healthy, they would probably come back again if cut to the ground. But that is not the normal way to treat azaleas.
There is nothing wrong with letting them go, especially if they maintain a decent shape.
The main reason for trimming azaleas is to control their height and to increase their health.
Try to only prune immediately after they finish blooming, so as to not remove next years flower buds. They form these new flower buds in the summer.
I like to cut back branches that have are growing taller than the rest of the plant. Cut out all dead material. If there is a possibility it is diseased, either burn it or have a trash hauler take it away.
Here are some things you can do to help the health of the plants. If there is a tangle of branches in the center of the plants with no leaves, thin this out. Cut back branches that are growing back toward the center of the plant. Remove branches that are crossing each other and rubbing. The more air than can get into the center of the plant the more disease free it will be.
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arkienurse wrote:

Azaleas (and many other woody shrubs) should be pruned to force new growth. This rejuvenates the shrub. However, azaleas do not need annual pruning. I prune mine about once every 3-4 years.
Prune shortly after all blooms have faded. Don't cut to the ground. Remove old branches and keep new ones. Shorten branches to about 1-2 ft. Remove thin, spindly twigs and any dead growth. Open the center; after pruning, the branches should all point away from the center. When done, feed with a commercial azalea food.
As new growth starts, "pinch" the tips any shoots that appear extra vigorous. (To pinch a shoot, use your thumbnail against your forefinger to cut away the top inch.) This will make the plant more bushy. Pinching should be done repeatedly throughout the growing season, including during years between pruning.
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It doesn't sound like you have a reason/need to cut them down, so why do it? However, if you want to even them up a little you can (do it [only] right after the flower fade away), but PLEASE don't trim them into a shape (i.e square or round)!! Just do a little snip here and there to, again, just even them up a little. Keep them looking natural. I also would NOT trim out any inner branches -- Azaleas like shade! -- there's no reason to and if anything would likely harm the plant more than help it. I say continue to enjoy your Azaleas as they are now.
Patrick

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