Azaleas are spring-flowering bushes of the rhododendron family. Azaleas come in different varieties. Some are early blooming and others are late blooming. They bloom in an assortment of colors: white, pink, red, purple and even some yellow. Azaleas range from 2 to 12 feet tall. They prefer acidic soil and partial shade in the hottest time of the day. This year's buds produce next year's blooms, so you have to be careful if you need to cut them back.
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The best time to cut back azaleas is during or just after they have flowered for the season. This is to help eliminate the loss of next year's flowers.
Use a thinning cut to cut back any long branches. To make a thinning cut, use the clippers and cut the desired branch to the point where another branch emerges or to the trunk. This stimulates growth to the entire bush. Remove any dead or diseased branches.
Use heading cuts to remove branches just above a bud where new growth will start. Make the cut 5 to 10 inches below the height that you want the bush to be. This type of cutting is used to reduce the size of the plant and make it fuller. It encourages separate branches to grow. It should be used on young branches.
Remove all clippings from around the azalea. This will help stop any spread of disease. Mulch the azalea after pruning.
A more drastic type of heading is to cut the bush back until it's 6 to12 inches to the ground. Severe pruning like this may risk the loss of the plant. If you need to cut it back this extremely, only cut it by a third of its height each year until you reach the desired size.
When using a heading cut, the bud that remains will grow in the direction it's pointing. Cut the branch to a bud that is pointing outward. Azaleas need to be pruned yearly to keep their desired shape.
Always sterilize your clippers when cutting your azaleas. Use a water and bleach mix. Don't cut azaleas after July 4th, to save some of next year's blooms.