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Time to to take care of azaleas is now

As spring approaches, we all begin to think of the beautiful blooming azalea.

When our azaleas complete their blooming season it will be time to fertilize, prune and mulch. They should be fertilized with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or one especially formulated for acid-loving plants. Be sure to follow label directions as azalea roots are located very near the soil surface. Over fertilization can cause damage and plant death. Overgrown limbs should be pruned out to restore the natural shape of the plant. Do not delay pruning until later in the season or you may destroy next year's flower buds.

Lace bugs are the primary insect pest on azaleas. These insects feed on the host's leaves by using their piercing-sucking mouth parts. The upper sides of the damaged leaves show a whitish speckling, which is caused by the insects feeding on the undersides of the leaves. I have already seen several cases of lace bugs this spring. Our local garden stores have the necessary insecticides to control lace bugs.

Another problem we occasionally see on azaleas is iron deficiency. Sometimes iron deficiency is confused with lace bug damage. Once you've seen both symptoms they are fairly easy to tell apart. Iron deficiency is a pale yellow appearance of the leaves rather than the white speckling caused by lace bugs. Again, our local garden stores have iron supplements that can be sprayed on the plants or applied to the soil for correcting the problem.

The last thing I'd like to mention is moisture management. I know we've been getting a lot of rain lately, but that may not be the case this summer. Hopefully, mother nature will continue to give us the needed moisture, but in the absence of rain, most plants need a good soaking once a week. A 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch in the beds will conserve moisture and reduce weed competition.

Web posted on Thursday, March 01, 2007

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