Azaleas come in all sizes, colors
Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
Q: How big are azaleas supposed to be? Mine are getting really tall. Should I leave them alone?
A: Azaleas are definitely a favorite of the North Florida garden, their showy blooms usher in our spring every year. How large they will grow depends on what type of azalea you have. The Formosa Southern Indica type azaleas can reach heights of 12- to 15-feet tall when they are older and growing under the right conditions. If this is under your window or right next to the front door, it might be a little tall for the scale of your home or landscape. Favorite Southern Indica types include; the popular dark pink called Southern Charm, the light pink-flowered George L. Tabor and the white-bloomed azalea known as G.G. Gerbing. There are dwarf azaleas that only reach 2- to 3-feet tall, these types such as Red Ruffles and Madonna White are more appropriate for areas where you want a smaller plant. Fashion azaleas top off at around 4 feet, and bloom in early February with coral-colored flowers. The Florida native azaleas lose their leaves each fall. They can be as tall as 8-10 feet, but they grow very slowly. Flame azaleas and Pinxter azaleas are the native types that perform best in the our area.
The perfect time to prune azaleas is soon after they have finished flowering. If needed, remove one-third of the height of the plant. Remove any older canes from the center of the bush if the plant has become too wide or thick with foliage. You can remove 1-2 older canes all the way to the ground. Prune anytime between the end of blooming and the Fourth of July. If you wait too late in the summer to prune, you will be cutting off next year's flowers because all azaleas bloom on the older wood. If you would like your azalea to be 12- to 15-feet tall, do not prune it every year. Just prune to keep its shape and to allow for the sunlight to reach the lower parts of the plant. If the top of the plant shades the lower branches, they will become bare and unattractive. For more information on pruning, contact the Alachua County Master Gardener at email@example.com or 955-2402.
Q: When should I prune my ornamental grasses back? I have Muhly grass and red fountain grass.
A: Many gardeners chose to leave the brown foliage of ornamental grasses on the plants for the winter months. Even when they have been touched by the frost, the long blades of the grass and spent flower plumes give a texture to the landscape. The grasses also give movement to the garden when the blades blow in the wind. But when spring comes knocking at the door, we are ready for everything to be green and new, and we want to prune the grasses back. Our last frost date in North Central Florida is Sunday, so we are in the clear as far as pruning goes. If the blades of your Muhly grass are completely brown, prune them off about 12 inches from the ground with hedging shears, clippers or a small chain saw.
For your evergreen grasses like red fountain grass or Fakahatchee grass, the ragged dead leaves can be removed by combing the foliage with a pitchfork or stiff rake. Follow the pruning or raking with an application of slow-release fertilizer, and your grasses will be looking beautiful again in a few months. For more information about ornamental grass selection and care, visit the UF/IFAS Extension website at www.solutionsforyourlife.com
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.