Last year I grew a batch of azaleas that had recently been bare-rooted. To help the trees get established, I let them grow freely all year. By fall they were healthy and full of new leaves.
Normally I like to thin azaleas in fall, but because I wanted these trees to continue growing vigorously, I postponed pruning until the following spring.
It turns out this was a bad idea – and not just because the trees didn’t grow as much as I’d expected. The problem is that it’s hard to get rid of thrips on azaleas with dense foliage.
Wanting to avoid a similar fate this year, I’m thinning all of the azaleas in the garden. In addition to helping them resist infestation, thinning:
- improves branch structure
- ensures interior shoots get the sunlight they need to grow strong
- balances vigor by reducing the amount of foliage on strong branches
Thinning is also a lot of fun. The work goes quickly and trees can look much better when the work is complete. Here’s a clump-style Osakazuki before and after thinning.
Clump-style satsuki azalea ‘Osakazuki’
After thinning – 23″
Although the tree is still in early stages of refinement, at least I can now see clearly what needs to happen next: wiring, improved branch ramification, and a more refined silhouette.
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