Azaleas not blooming? Try pruning this way for repeat flowering


It can be frustrating when your azaleas don't bloom, despite your best efforts. The most common culprit of non-blooming azaleas tends to be pruning too hard, although planting azaleas in the wrong location without the right lighting or watering requirements can also be to blame.

To get those beautiful blossoms twice a year, you need to identify the problem and take corrective action. Keep reading for some possible reasons why your azaleas are not blooming, plus a detailed guide to pruning to get your azalea plants back on track.

8 reasons your azaleas aren’t blooming

  1. Wrong soil pH

  2. Azaleas actually prefer acidic soils that have a pH level between 5.0 and 5.5. (For reference, 7.0 is neutral and most vegetables and ornamentals prefer soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Very few plants prefer alkaline soils, but alkaline soil will certainly stunt azalea growth.

    Soil pH is important because pH is directly related to how plants absorb nutrients into the soil. Different plants absorb different nutrients at varying soil pH, although 6.5 seems to be the magic number for most plants. For azaleas, that number is between 5.0 and 5.5. When azalea’s soil pH needs are met, the plants are able to absorb the nutrients that they need to flower beautifully.

  3. Climate and weather patterns

  4. Azaleas thrive in temperate climates, such as the West Coast, the Southeast, and the Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Typically, these climates are found in USDA hardiness zones 6–10.

    But even within these prescribed regions, abnormal weather patterns can adversely affect azalea blooming. Extremely cold winters and very hot, dry summers can greatly diminish flowering. Ironically enough, winters without a few days of freezing temperatures can confuse azaleas and keep them from flowering.

  5. Inadequate light

  6. Azaleas prefer full sun, or about six hours of direct sunlight each day. Giving azaleas more sun may actually result in plants that are more compact and have more blooms, whereas giving azaleas less light could cause the plant to grow taller and spread wider in reach of the sun, but the flowers will be more sparse.

    The ideal lighting scenario for azaleas is somewhere the plants receive morning sun but also receive some afternoon shade.

  7. Watering issues

  8. Azaleas are known for being a little tricky when it comes to watering—the plants love moisture, but can’t stand to be too wet. It’s best if you keep azaleas from getting too dry, but the soil can’t be soggy. Ideally, install drip irrigation to your azalea plants and put them on a timer so that they receive regular and appropriate watering. Then mulch around the base of the plants to retain moisture on hot days.

  9. Under or over-fertilization

  10. Unlike some ornamentals, azaleas are not heavy feeders and don’t require much more than yearly fertilization. Balanced fertilizers and azalea-specific fertilizers can be useful for supplying azaleas with the nutrients that they need, without supplying an overabundance of the wrong minerals.

  11. Pests and diseases

  12. Unfortunately, azaleas are not deer-resistant, and deer especially love the tender new growth and flower buds. If you live in an area heavily populated by deer, you may want to consider installing a tall fence to keep deer and other pests out of your garden.

    Certain insects like scales, spider mites, caterpillars, leafminers, and borers might also take a liking to your azalea bushes, and plants under stress won’t have as beautiful blooms as healthier plants. Be proactive and keep an eye out for pesky pests on azaleas, and utilize biological or organic pest control. 

    As with anything, there are a few diseases that can be detrimental to azalea health. Some of the most common diseases include powdery mildew, petal blight, and sooty mold, but these diseases are easily avoided by giving azaleas ideal growing conditions.

  13. Young plants

  14. Of course, your azaleas may not be blooming simply because they are too young. Azaleas generally don’t bloom until their second or third season, so don’t expect blooms from a first-year plant.

  15. Over-pruning

  16. Azaleas bloom on old wood, so they can’t be pruned the same way that you would prune roses or other plants. You never want to prune azaleas in the fall, as the new growth will already be developing on the previous season's branches. 

How to prune azaleas the right way for beautiful blooms

Pruning is an essential step in the care and maintenance of many perennials. Pruning encourages healthy new growth and can also help increase air circulation around the plant, which can reduce the likelihood of disease. Plus, regular pruning keeps the individual plants (and the landscape) looking much cleaner!

Ideally, prune azaleas a few weeks after they flower in spring. Avoid pruning azaleas in the late summer or fall because you may accidentally cut the flower buds and render the plant unable to bloom again that fall or the following spring.

Azaleas can be deciduous or evergreen, depending on the variety, but both types are pruned similarly. Resist any urge to use hedge trimmers to prune azaleas—the plants look so much better when pruned by hand with garden shears or loppers for bigger branches. Whichever tool you use, start with a clean, sharp blade and wear Gardening Gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection.

  • First, identify any damaged branches and make a cut just below the damaged point. Locate any dead stems or diseased foliage and remove those branches at the base.
  • Next, cut any branches that have grown outside of the desired shape. You can also remove any stems that grow horizontally across other branches to open up airflow to the center of the plant.
  • When the pruning is complete, don’t forget to clean up the plant debris and move it to the burn pile or garbage. Clean your tools and put them away.
  • After pruning, water azaleas normally. This is a great time to fertilize the plants as well, just make sure to use a balanced slow-release fertilizer that won’t burn the plants.

Even though cutting back healthy plants can feel a little counterintuitive, we promise that you can’t hurt your azaleas by pruning them, as long as you prune no later than mid-summer, since by early fall the plants are already growing flower buds. Try not to cut the plants back by more than one-third of their original height. Azaleas will recover from being cut too hard but the plants may not flower the following spring.

Our favorite azaleas 

With nearly 50 varieties of azaleas to choose from, you really can’t go wrong with any one of them. But we have a few varieties that we always recommend: 

We love all of our Encore varieties, but Autumn Lilac is especially striking. This dwarf variety doesn’t sacrifice big blooms for a compact size, and with the proper care will bloom all season long.

Convince yourself you’re on a tropical vacation with these large hibiscus-like blooms. This bloom begins flowering earlier than most other azaleas and continues until summer. 

The name says it all. Tradition is a low-maintenance, classic pink azalea and a profuse bloomer that is sure to delight. 

One of our few native species, the scarlet Robert E. Lee is a little hardier than other azalea varieties, thriving in the colder winters of USDA zones 5–9.

There you have it—a brief explanation of why azaleas might not flower and a few tips to give your azaleas the best possible start. Remember to check your soil pH, and plant azaleas in a location where they will receive enough sunlight and water. Prune and fertilize sparingly once a year, and practice ongoing pest and disease management to keep azalea bushes looking their best year after year.

Now that you know exactly how to get the biggest and most beautiful azalea blooms, shop our Azalea collection today for the prettiest azaleas on the block.