Why are my azalea leaves turning yellow?

Why are my azalea leaves turning yellow? - Redeem Your Ground | RYGblog.com

Well it’s happening again … many of the leaves on my azaleas have turned yellow. So as I did last year, I’m briefly interrupting our holiday-related posts to re-post the answer to a question that I’ve had…and one that several of my clients have asked me recently … Why are my azalea leaves turning yellow?

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It seems that every year around this time a disproportionate number of my azaleas’ have turned yellow…and the bright yellow really stands out because the only other colors going on in my yard are green and brown. So what’s up?

Why are my azalea leaves turning yellow? - Redeem Your Ground | RYGblog.comBeing a self-taught (i.e., I don’t have a degree with anything plant in it), I wanted to make sure that I was complete and accurate with my answer…so I reached out to my all-around-plant-guru-friend Holly Brooks from King Landscaping. And here are three potential answers we’d like to suggest…and what you should do about it, if anything.

  1. There’s nothing to worry about at all, they’re just molting…losing their leaves. Even evergreens lose their leaves…just not all at once like deciduous plants do. Azaleas set their leaf buds in the fall…and the emergence of these buds prompts molting. Having random yellow leaves scattered throughout your azaleas is normal…these leaves are simply molting. There’s nothing you need to do or worry about. Just wait for new growth in the spring.
  1. There’s nothing to worry about…they may just need to be fertilized – but wait. It may be that your azaleas are just needing a little bit of extra juice…particularly nitrogen. Nitrogen-deficient azaleas seem to shed even more leaves…hence more of them turn yellow. But don’t run out and fertilize them now … wait until the spring. If you fertilize them now it may cause them to start producing new leaves … which you don’t want, because this tender new growth would likely be burned during the winter’s cold weather. Just enjoy your yellowy garden, have patience, and rest in knowing there’s nothing you should do now.
  1. However, there could be an insect issue. Silvery and yellow mottled or even bleached-looking leaves indicate a potential lace bug infestation … one of the most common pests to azaleas. If you can’t tell whether the leaves are molting or have an insect problem, simply look at the underside of the leaf. If there’s dirt (…which is really bug feces…lovely)…you have lace bugs. And if you do, you need to act fast…lace bugs are active breeders so a small problem can quickly become a big problem. So spray them with insecticidal soap…making sure to drench the underside of the leaves.

Why are my azalea leaves turning yellow? - Redeem Your Ground | RYGblog.com

Fortunately for me … there’s no dirt on the underside of my azaleas’ leaves … so it’s just the normal molting process. I’ll simply wait for their normal burst of flowers and new leaf growth in the spring. Now, I may throw out a bit of nitrogen-rich fertilizer after the last frost of the year just to be on the safe side and to hopefully minimize all the yellow next year.  We’ll see.

sidebar-vineI hope this post has helped any of you who have ever wondered why are my azalea leaves turning yellow.

Take care all,
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6 thoughts on “Why are my azalea leaves turning yellow?

  1. I live in the North East and my Azalea bush seems to have more yellow and brown leaves than I remember from previous years. In the spring I always put my coffee grounds around the bush and this gives them a nice dose of nitrogen to start the season.

    • Hey Glenda…thanks for chiming in. And great tip on the coffee grounds…thanks for sharing! I actually did a post back in September about the benefits of using coffee grounds in your garden…prompted by Starbucks’ “Grounds for your Garden” program. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://redeemyourground.com/redeem-grounds-coffee-grounds/.

      I use my coffee grounds like I do our bunny’s manure…simply spreadin it around my planting beds as mulch. I know that both are great added to your compost pile as well…and if I composted, I probably would too. However, since both are bioavailable (and the bunny manure doesn’t burn plants like other manures) they are great when simply added directly to your plants…either as mulch on top or amended into the soil.

      Thanks again Glenda. Please check back in for other posts…and I’d love for you to add other words of gardening wisdom from your experience.

      Take care, D.

  2. Having a problem with 20 year old azaleas dying. Last summer noticed one plant was dying – 1 branch at a time. This year it is only a skeleton. In same natural area, the azalea beside it looks like the same thing may be happening. I have a natural area on each side of drive, with approximately 5 azaleas in each area (with other smaller plants) , and these both have some of the same symptoms starting to appear. Please advise. Have seen no evidence of moles/voles in this area, but found fire ants, very very small, last summer.

    • Betty…I’m so sorry that I’m late in responding to you. I’ve been down and out with the flu. I have had similar problems with some of my older azaleas. There are a number of reasons why this is happening…drought conditions, fungal diseases, borers, etc. But since you mentioned that they are old, I’m thinking it might be due to fungus. You see…like us, as azaleas age their immune systems can weaken…making them more susceptible to soil borne fungus. Depending on how far gone a plant is, you can try to prune out the dead limbs…in hopes of new growth filling in. That’s what I have done w some of my azaleas, and have gotten a few more seasons out of them. However, with others…as sad at it is…I have just replaced them with younger, healthier plants. I hope this helps…but if you want to read further, here’s a link that might give you more insight: http://forums.gardenweb.com/discussions/1730029/old-azaleas-dying-in-sections. Thanks for reaching out Betty and good luck! – D.

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