cutting back azealas/rhodos now

As a new home owner who inherited lots of landscaping with my house, I didn't know to cut back azealas and rhododendrens when they bloomed this spring. I've been told if I cut them back now I will "cut off all the spring blooms", but they are horribly leggy and overgrown and I think I have no choice or my neighbors may picket me soon...do you think I'll get some bloom even if I cut back now? Thanks Kirsten
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wrote:

Odds are you will still get some blooms, but probably not as many as you would if you pruned them when it was the right time. In all the years we have lived here, I have only ever gottenaround to pruning my azalea perhaps 3 or 4 times at the correct time of the year, and usually ind myself cutting them back when I have the time. They have always had more than sufficient blooms just the same. This year agan I never got them done in time, but will probably hit them hard and heavy in a month or two....... Personally I would cut them back and what happens, happens. You certainly won;t kill them in all reality, as azaleas are pretty darn tough and withstand quite severe cutting back once they are established.. Visit my website: http://www.frugalmachinist.com Opinions expressed are those of my wife, I had no input whatsoever. Remove "nospam" from email addy.
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Hi Kristen,
The problem is that the flower buds are already on the plant now. They started forming around mid summer. If you very carefully prune just the ends of the longest branches, you will only loose the flowers on the longest branches. If you go in with a hedge pruner, you will probably loose most every flower.
For maximum flower production, pinch off faded flowers or the developing seed capsules that follow [ deadheading ]. Pruning is seldom needed except for removal of faded flowers, but if it is needed, branches may be trimmed immediately after flowering. Prune in the spring after the bloom has faded and before mid-summer. Rhododendrons start to form the next years flower buds in mid summer and by fall the buds are fairly well developed. Pruning after mid summer removes the next years flower buds. Rhododendron and azaleas may be pruned after the flowers have faded to induce new growth. Prune out dead, diseased or damaged branches, and in cases where plants have become scraggly, start cutting the oldest branches back to encourage growth in younger branches. Pruning in the fall is not recommended since it will remove the buds for next years flowers.
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kc wrote:

Depending on your climate, you risk killing them. Pruning now might promote tender new growth. If you get frost or snow in the winter, that growth will die. Having put some effort into creating that growth, the plants might not recover to create even more new growth in the spring.
Leave them alone until after they flower in the spring. Prune then. New growth will have a chance to harden before the following winter. If any neighbor comments, explain that they can be pruned only in the late spring.
This is not a problem in my mild-winter climate, but I still prune my azaleas only in the spring.
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I live in zone 6 and that is not a problem here if you just cut off the ends of branches that stick way out beyond the normal plant habit. This happens a lot with azaleas here and I frequently prune off some of the excessive summer top growth and it never stimulates new growth. It does make the flower buds that are left do better.
If you are talking about using a hedge trimmer or cutting way back, then that would stimulate tender growth.
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