How to Revive a Dying Azalea in 7 Easy Steps

Do you have an azalea that's dying in your yard or garden, and aren't quite sure how to bring it back to life? There are many reasons an azalea can struggle, but the good news is that reviving them is possible. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago walks through seven steps to bring your azaleas back if they've started to decline.

A close up image of a struggling azalea shrub. The focus of the image is on the pink bloom that is coming out of the shrub in the center of the plant.

Azaleas are well-loved around the world and have become a staple in many home gardens. Azaleas are easy enough to grow, but sometimes they can start to decline for several different reasons. So what should you do when your azalea starts to die?

Many reasons azaleas struggle are simply due to their growing conditions. Luckily for most gardeners, these reasons are easy to fix. This could include adjusting your watering schedule, possibly moving the plant, or other simple changes.

The list below has the most common reasons your azalea may be suffering, and how to help your plant get on the road to recovery. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in!

A bit about Azaleas

Azaleas are spring blooming shrubs that come in a rainbow of colors, but they are most popular for their bright pinks and shades of whites. Azaleas are easy to grow shrubs that are also very versatile. They are native to Asia as well as the east coast of North America near the Appalachian mountain range.

Improper Watering

The process of spraying flowering azalea bushes with water. A close-up of a girl in a pink sweater and black gloves standing back to the camera with a green sprayer in her hands and spraying water on the shrubs. The bushes are out of focus, blooming with incredibly beautiful and bright pink flowers.
If the leaves of your azalea are drooping, it is recommended to increase watering.

Azaleas have very shallow roots. This makes the amount of water the plant receives very important. The roots can easily dry out, or become waterlogged depending on your watering routine.

Newly planted Azaleas can be victims of watering- whether it be too much water or too little. You may also find shrubs that are planted in windy areas tend to dry out quickly. Mulching around the base of your azaleas will help retain moisture.

How to Fix

Increase your watering: If the leaves on your azalea are drooping, you probably need to increase the amount of water the shrub is getting. Azaleas need about one inch of water per week. If you are unsure how much water your plants are getting you can install a rain gauge and check it on a weekly basis.

If your azalea has dried out, it is best to water it slowly and deeply to ensure that the maximum amount of water is reaching the roots.

Stop Watering:  If the roots of your azalea appear to be soft and mushy your azalea has been overwatered. Give your plants a break and allow the soil around the roots to dry out a bit before you resume your regular watering routine.

Too Much Sun

Selective focus of an azalea bush blooming with purple flowers with green leaves in the garden on a natural floral background. The bush blooms in full sun. This shrub has semi-double bell-shaped flowers of light purple color with a yellow spot on one of the petals closer to the middle of the flower and long stamens. Elliptical green leaves pubescent on both sides. The background is blurry.
Due to excessive sun exposure, your azalea leaves may begin to curl and turn brown or yellow.

Some azaleas are tolerant of full sun, but most prefer partial shade. If your azalea does not get a break from the sun your plants will be smaller, and the flowers will only last a few days. You may notice your leaves curling in on themselves, and turning brown or yellow. You could also notice more infestations of pests or diseases due to drought or heat stress.

How to Fix

Transplant: If you believe that your azaleas are getting too much sun your best option is to transplant them. Find a spot in your garden where the azalea will get a break from the sun. You will likely notice that your plant will bounce back nicely once it is getting more shade which will also help the plant retain moisture.

Too much Fertilizer

Close-up of a gardener's hands in orange gloves holding an orange and black plastic spray bottle and spraying fertilizer on a flowering azalea bush. The shrub has semi-double bell-shaped flowers of deep purple color with a dark pink spot on one of the petals closer to the middle of the flower and long stamens. Elliptical green leaves break through the flowering buds and some of the leaves are yellowish in color. Blurred background.
Azaleas need a basic fertilizer in the spring or early summer.

If your azalea leaves have brown tips and have begun to drop you may have burned your plant with fertilizer. Azaleas should be fertilized in the spring or early summer with a basic 10-10-10 fertilizer.

You can also use a specialized fertilizer for acid loving plants. Fertilizing is not necessary, but whatever method you choose be sure not to fertilize after July.

How to Fix

Less is More: When it comes to established azaleas, they really don’t need much. If your azalea is already suffering from fertilizer burn you will want to flush out the fertilizer as soon as you can.

Once your plant has been sufficiently watered, snip off any of the leaves or plant material that have symptoms of burn. It may take a few months for the azalea to show recovery. Adding mulch to the base of the plant will help to protect the burned roots as well as hold in moisture.

Poor Soil

Close-up of a soil measuring device against the background of a flowering shrub branch. The blue measuring device has a screen with an arrow and inscriptions of the corresponding levels of moisture/dryness of the soil, alkalinity, and PH level. At the bottom of the device, there is a switch with three modes: moisture, light, and PH. In the background, a flowering azalea branch with snow-white flowers with long yellow stamens.
Get a soil test to be able to acidify the soil or change its composition to a lighter one if necessary.

Azaleas thrive in acidic soil. Acidic soil ranges in pH from 5.5-6 or lower. If your soil is too alkaline, or sweet, they will survive but they will not be at their best.

Azaleas grow best when they are planted in well draining soil. Well draining soil will be moist, but will drain easily and will not become wet or too soggy.

The reason azaleas like well draining soil is because they are susceptible to root rot and do not like having “wet feet”. Root rot on azaleas will kill the plant from the roots up. Unfortunately, if your azalea has root rot, it may be too late to save it. But you can prevent it from happening.

How to Fix

Get a soil test: Check the pH of your soil either by getting a soil test done, or by getting a pH reader from a garden center.

Amend your soil: If your soil is too alkaline, you can acidify it by adding a soil acidifier such as garden sulfur. You can also mulch using pine needles, this can help to acidify your soil as well.

If your soil is too heavy or too sandy, add compost to alter the composition of your soil. This will allow water to flow more freely without drying out too quickly.

Wrong plant, wrong place

A man transplants a large flowering bush. A gardener in a white sweater, gray trousers and brown boots is digging a hole with a large garden shovel. Nearby stands an excavated azalea bush. The bush has green elliptical leaves. All the ground in the garden is strewn with dry leaves.
Make sure the azalea in your garden is hardy in your area.

Depending on what variety of azalea you have, most azaleas are hardy in zones 5-9. The best way to know what variety you have is by reading the plant tag, or taking note of the variety so you can look it up later.

How to Fix

Plant something new: If you have found yourself in this predicament where your climate is either too cold or too hot, the best thing to do is find a new plant that is suitable for your planting zone.

Problems with Pests

Close-up of a green-brown plump worm eating an azalea leaf. The worm has 6 pairs of short legs. Its body is painted brown-orange with dark green sides, on which there is a nice pattern of white and black spots. The plant stems are green and thick. The leaves are oval and green. There is also a red bud that has not yet blossomed. Against the blurred background, there are green stems of the bush.
You can manually remove some pests with a hose or by placing them in a bucket of soapy water.

Azaleas have been known to encounter some issues with pests such as caterpillars, leaf miners, lace bugs, nematodes, scale and whiteflies.

You may notice that your leaves have been munched on, or maybe your leaves have turned unexpectedly yellow with no other explanation. These are just a few symptoms of pests on azaleas. Oftentimes, where you see insect damage, you will also see the insect.

How to Fix

Prevent: Many pest infestations are easy to control if your plant is kept in good health. This means preventing stress by watering correctly, and ensuring that the plant is receiving enough nutrients through good quality soil or fertilizer.

Physical Removal: The removal of infected plant tissue can always help. Whether this is leaves that have been chewed by leafminers, or nibbled on by caterpillars. Some insects can be removed by hand, or by the spray of a hose. This is a great alternative to using chemical treatments. Simply knock the insects into a bucket of soapy water, and remove them from the area.

Treat: Treat as needed, and be sure to read the label on whichever product you purchase you make sure you are using the correct application amount as well as timing. Popular treatment products for azaleas are:

  • Horticultural oils, such as bonide all seasons
  • Bayer advanced Tree & Shrub insect control
  • Sevin shrub treatment

Difficulty with Diseases

Close-up of shrubby plant leaves with a fungal disease. The leaves are green with purple and orange spots. Some of the leaves are twisted. The background is blurry. Some of the leaves have a drying reddish edge to them reflecting their decay.
To cure the fungus, it is recommended to apply a fungicide.

Azaleas are prone to fungal diseases that are very common in any garden. Fungal diseases are spread through water: this could be rainfall or irrigation. Fungus could look like white mildew growing on all parts of your plant, galls that grow on flower petals or leaves, red spots on the leaves, or total death of a branch or two on your azalea.

How to Fix

Apply a Fungicide: Copper fungicides work well on fungal diseases. Be sure to read the label for application instructions.

Clean up your plants and garden: Prune and remove any infected plant material. Before you move onto pruning a new plant be sure to clean all of your tools so you don’t spread the infection to other areas of your yard.

Remove the infected plant material from your yard if possible, but definitely do not add it to your compost because the fungus will continue to spread throughout your compost and your yard as you later spread that compost.

Final Thoughts

Many of the reasons your azalea could be struggling are easy to remedy with a closer look at your plant care regimen and a slight change to what you have been doing. Azaleas are easy to maintain, and their flowers are a welcome springtime sight.

The easiest way to grow a strong, healthy blooming shrub is to make sure you have them planted in a spot in your garden that suits all of the needs of the plant. Once you’ve done that, they will require very little from you at all.

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