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Azalea help?

I bought an Azalea spring of this year, and it was doing so well when I bought it. It was flowering and it's leaves were bright vivid green, and it had been producing new beautiful growth.

A week after I brought it home, I re-potted it into a bigger container then watered it until the water came out of the drainage holes. It was fine for a few days after that, but then the leaves started to droop and ended up turning brown.

On the 4th or 5th day, the leaves were dry and crispy and falling off, but the trunk of the tree was still alive, so I just decided to leave it alone.

I left it alone for about 2 weeks, still no new growth.

I ended up taking it out of the pot, and re-mixing the soil with something that was better for draining, then I loosened up the root ball- thinking that maybe the water wasn't reaching the roots properly, then replaced it back in it's pot. (which was a bit large btw.)

I kept watering it weekly, as the soil started to dry I'd water it until the water came out of the drainage holes. This...apparently did nothing. There was still no new growth.

Just last night, I took it out of it's large pot and mixed another soil mixture, put some root stimulator around the root ball, and placed it in a smaller pot with a potting mixture of peat moss, perlite, regular potting soil, and a handful of cactus soil (for the mulchy-looking stuff in it).

The azalea's soil is also mixed with coconut brick materials and a bit of root growth stimulator, but.. now I can't tell if the poor thing is dead or not.

Here are some pictures of the Azalea's "life cycle" so to speak.





If it's not dead, does anyone know what I can do for it?[/img]

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It looks dead to me. You see the trunk just above where it comes out of the soil? Looks like bark has sloughed off, which means it's dead. Still... Bend a few twigs. Brittle snap is dead, flexing and bouncing back is alive. If you snap one off, do you see green living cambium or just yellow to white to beige dead dry stuff?

Azaleas have sensitive roots and if your potting soil had fertilizer already in it, that may have burnt them. Repotting was not necessary at all, and definitely lifting it again to repot did not help.

Ah, I've had "dead" azaleas recover. This one just doesn't look like it will.

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When I bend it, it does bounce back as though it's alive, but when I snap off a twig, I can't seem to tell if it's green or not. I don't want to snap off any of the larger twigs, on the off chance that it IS alive.

Also, just as a side note.. the bark around the base of the azalea is not from the azalea itself, it was bark that I gathered to act as mulch- as I don't have any atm.

The Azalea's bark was splitting when I bought it, but that aside.. it was pretty healthy.

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First of all, stop watering it weekly. It needs a fast-draining soil, and although they need moisture, they hate being soggy. It's possible the plant isn't completely dead yet. They can be quite tenacious and sometimes can be successfully brought back, with proper care.

If your azalea was purchased from a big box store, grocery store, florist shop, or small garden shop, then it was probably forced. Forced azaleas, while they can survive, usually have a rough time of it the first year. At least, that's been my experience. I received them as gifts a couple of times, and while they did grow relatively nicely in my yard for a few years afterward, they didn't last nearly as long as the ones I purchased from nurseries. (A nursery, by comparison, is a place where you would walk through the greenhouses and select the plants you wished to purchase.)

A mulch should not be allowed to touch the stem of a plant. Mulches seal the heat in the ground, and unless some space is provided around the plant's stem, the roots can be cooked. In fact, I'd get rid of the mulch entirely. In a container, it's only for looks. It's better, IMO, to allow the surface of the soil to breathe.

One important point is that the the peeling bark should have warned you away from the plant at the time of purchase. Unless you're buying a plant that is noted for it's peeling bark, that would definitely be indicative of a plant that's in serious trouble. While it can be fun to "save" a plant, you must always head into such a project with the realization that you're likely to fail. A neglected plant can sometimes be saved, but a seriously sick plant is usually doomed. Also, with a sick plant, you risk spreading disease to other plants you might own.

I'm curious about why you felt the plant needed to be moved to a larger container. Unless you have reason to believe a plant is root bound or has been sitting in soggy soil for a couple of weeks, it shouldn't need to be repotted. I think people are far too quick to repot their plants. Azaleas have very small root balls. A 6' tall azalea or rhododendron will have a root ball about 2 1/2 to 3 feet in diameter and 18 to 24 inches deep.

Don't hesitate to gently slide a plant out of it's container and examine the roots. It really doesn't harm the plant, unless you really manhandle the thing, and even then, they rarely suffer lasting damage. That way, you can see if the soil is too wet, which simply means you should ease back on the watering a bit. If the soil is a real muddy mess, you can gently remove it from around the outside of the root ball ... no need to wash the roots completely free of soil ... and then replant it in the same sized container, using a high quality potting mix.

HTH! :)

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Agree with Kisal. The plant you bought (the first picture) does not look healthy to me. It looks like a very small baby azalea that had been forced to bloom a whole lot more than it had the resources for. That does often exhaust the plant so it just dies after that. Where did you buy it from, WalMart? Some industrial production place like that.

I would give up on that one and start over with a healthy plant. You are looking for a plant with a large healthy root system, well branched, with lots of healthy leaves. Preferably no flowers at all, especially this time of year, since it is past the season for azaleas to bloom. You probably want to wait until early fall at this point. It is very hard to get plants established, planting them in the heat of summer. And azaleas do not like direct sun. I have mine planted under a big shrub and they do fine there.

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To answer your question Kisal, I re-potted it for exactly that reason. The pot it was in was very small, and the roots of the Azalea had been snaking their way out the bottom of the pot. Not only was the pot small, it was also flimsy and a bit cracked.

Had it not been for the pot being in poor condition, and the possibility of the plant being root bound, I would've just left the thing where it was.

When I bought the plant, I didn't know very much about Azaleas, but I remembered loving the flowers they produced. Unfortunately, I did find this one in the Walmart nursery. Usually in places like that, much like I did with my hibiscus, I look for plants that haven't flowered at all and show bright green and lush foliage. This time, I think I just got distracted by the flowers.

As for starting over again, I think I might do that, but I certainly won't be buying from the same place again.

The dead Azalea will probably be turned into a piece of artwork if it doesn't show any signs of life after this next week.

Thank you all for the helpful comments. :)

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