Sunny February days often pull gardeners outside with thoughts of spring. We can see (or imagine seeing) bulbs popping up, trees and shrubs filling out and herbaceous perennials sending up new shoots. The March garden begins to take full form in our mind’s eye.
Getting your Encore® Azaleas ready for spring is an excellent way to chase away any remaining winter blahs. Here are some ways to get started.
Evaluate plant health
First, examine your plants closely – checking them for brown leaves, exposed roots, or broken and crossed limbs.
Most Encore® Azaleas are cold hardy in USDA zones 6A through 9 and all may remain evergreen throughout winter. However, many azaleas will still lose some of their leaves during cold weather and a few leaves may turn yellow. In temperate climates, brown leaves may be an indication of sun scald from lack of soil moisture.
Clean around base of shrub
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.
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 effected 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. This is not the time to shape azaleas; wait until after they complete a spring bloom.
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.
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 the Encore® Azaleas reward you with their lovely spring display!