November 7, 2011 @ 12:38 PM

Getting your landscaping ready for winter?

Taking care of your azalea beds to protect them from frost will help foster those big shows of profuse azalea blooms in spring. It also helps to know what not to do with azaleas. An overzealous azalea gardener can cheat themselves out of an azalea spring if uneducated about care of azaleas in winter.

Whether you live near our territory here in Southeast Texas, or even if you should live in one of those north-of-Southeast-Texas states, here is an easy 3-step instruction on how to prepare your azaleas for winter, in whatever zone your azalea bushes may grow.

Things you will need:

•    Mulch
•    Ruler
•    Anti-transpirant spray
•    3 wooden stakes, 4ft tall
•    Hammer
•    Burlap
•    Staple gun

  1. Spread 2-3” layer of organic mulch over the soil under the azalea bushes, extending it out to at least 2 feet beyond the base of the shrub.  If mulch is already in place, measure the depth with a ruler and add additional mulch until the proper thickness is achieved.

  2. Wait until the fall and spray all of the azalea leaves with an anti-transpirant spray or an anti-dessicant spray until the leaves are saturated.  These sprays dry to a wax-like finish, which protects the leaves from cold and from drying winds.  Read the bottle instructions and reapply as needed throughout the winter, since it wears off gradually.

  3. Install a screen around the azaleas if you live in an area with heavy snowfall.  Hammer three 4ft tall wooden stakes into the ground around the plant at equal distances.  Staple the end of a piece of burlap to one stake and then wrap the burlap around the remaining stakes, finally stapling it again to the first one.

Tips and Warnings

Leave the burlap screen up until no further snowfall is expected in the spring.  You do not have to remove the anti-transpirant spray, since it will wash off by itself over time. 

Do Not…

Do not cover azaleas with plastic since this smothers them and they will die. 
Do not cover the azaleas in mounds of leaves for winter, since this will cause them to decay.
Do not prune azaleas in summer, fall or winter. If you do, you will be removing the flower buds, which will prevent them from blooming in spring. How to prune azaleas is immediately after the blooming season.

Further resources:

United States National Arboretum  (usna.usda.gov/garden/faqs/azaleafaq2.html)

Yardener: Caring for Azaleas