Faithful reader Carol Dowd in San Augustine County, Texas, is annoyed with her Encore azaleas. “Not only are they blooming, they’ve grown five inches straight up since I gave them a haircut in June. They were supposed to be only 4 to 5 feet tall, but now they’re acting like they want to grow over the house. My husband is complaining about those darn bushes I planted. Any suggestions? I water them with fish poopy lake water when we don’t get enough rain.”
Well, Carol, May and early June are good times to prune these azaleas, as they’ll have plenty of time to set flower buds for the fall. (Encores bloom heavily in fall and spring.) Pruning them back to bare nubs could result in rank growth, but I don’t think you did that. Lack of sun could also cause legginess, as Encores prefer lots of sun. If I had to guess, though, I’d say the problem lies in the “fish poopy water” you’re using on them.
Fish poop contains lots of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that plants need to grow. So every time you water your Encores with poopy water, you’re fertilizing them. That’s why they grow so fast and tall. Stop doing that! Or at least, do so less frequently. At most, azaleas need fertilizing twice a year — once in spring and once in summer, preferably with a slow-release azalea/camellia food.
And that’s the poop on fertilizing Encores. Don’t feel too bad, Carol. At least you’ve been going organic!
Hobnob With Grumpy!
To celebrate Southern Living‘s 50th Anniversary, we’re putting on a prestigious soiree, “An Evening with the Editors,” here at our world headquarters in Birmingham on Monday, January 25, from 6 to 8 PM CST. There will be hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine, champagne, famous author Rick Bragg, famous chef Frank Stitt, a chance to meet and fawn over the Southern Living staff within the glorious confines of our brand new Time Inc. Food Studios, and — best of all — face-to-face time with the Grump himself. Your ticket also includes a signed copy of our beautiful anniversary book, Southern Living: 50 Years. Click here for details!