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Lack of Flowers

(April 2008)

QuestionLast spring we planted a row of Formosa azaleas on the north side of our house. This spring only half of them bloomed. Can you offer an explanation and a suggestion to correct this?

AnswerFirst of all, don’t gauge how well a plant blooms and grows its first season in the ground. Oftentimes, plants will spend time establishing a root system the first year, and really kick in and grow the second season on. That is a good thing. Do make sure the plants are healthy and growing this season. Fertilize now and keep them watered when dry. The north side of the house is fine for growing azaleas, as long as they get some sunlight during the day. Azaleas are considered under-story plants—they like filtered sunlight or morning sun. If some of them are in more shade than the others, they may not bloom as well.

(April 2007)

QuestionI have a pink azalea bush. Usually it is loaded with beautiful blooms every year. This year, it only had four flowers on it. I have a red azalea right next to it and it's full of blooms. Wonder why the pink one didn't bloom this year and the red one did? I've talked to others and they have the same problem.

AnswerLast year, many folks did not have a great azalea season, since our winter was extremely dry. This year, we had more than enough rainfall, but we did get some low temperatures and some parts of the state experienced some ice and winter precipitation. I have had several folks tell me their plants look a little peaked. Some varieties of azaleas are more winter hardy than others, so your pink one may be less so than the red ones. Check to see if you have flower buds on the plant. Some may have set that simply failed to open. Allow all your plants to have a chance to bloom, and then prune out any dead wood or extra growth as needed. Fertilize with an azalea fertilizer and apply new mulch, making sure you don’t pile the mulch up next to the trunks. Water as needed this summer and see how they grow. One or two bad years may occur due to weather related issues, insect attacks or disease. As long as you give it a little tender care this summer, it should bounce back and return to good blooming again next spring.

(March 2005)

QuestionI have several shrubs most people call japonicas (pink blooms and thorns). My neighbor are full of blooms, but mine have only a few. What can I do to get more blooms.

AnswerJaponica is the common name usually given to the flowering quince, Chaenomeles japonica. These old-fashioned shrubs may not be blooming as well if they are getting older and overgrown, or again in heavy shade. While they do bloom well in full sun to partial shade, they also set their flower buds in late summer—so don’t prune late in the season. You may want to thin out your plant this year immediately after bloom, fertilize lightly and see what happens next spring. They are easy plants to grow, and usually fairly reliable with blooms.

(April 2005)

QuestionI have four azaleas, three of which have been here twenty years. They have always had a bountiful bloom until this year. Two of them are blooming, but not as robustly as usual. The third one has less than a dozen blooms and the leaves are dull. The new growth appears hearty, but the older leaves are sickly although I can find no evidence of insects. Suggestions?

AnswerYou are probably not alone this spring with less than full blooming azaleas. Many plants were so confused last November/December that they actually were in almost full bloom then. Because of the early blooms late in the fall last year, some of those plants are not as full as we would like. We also seemed to have a little winter damage on some of these plants, which could account for the dull leaves. One other thing to consider on older plants such as yours, is to check and see if the plants are getting planted too deep from the addition of yearly mulch. If the leaves are getting smaller, that can be a problem. Remove some of the older mulch before applying new in the spring. Let them finish their blooming for this spring, then do a light haircut to encourage new growth. Follow with an application of azalea fertilizer and see how their new growth is this summer. Water as needed.

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