Q: I have a couple of azaleas that have become monsters! I did not cut them back for years and they now dominate my front landscape. In recent years, I have taken out large, too me, alternating branches in an effort to reel them in a little bit, but they always seem to grow as much as I cut. I do not like the blanket look of trimmed azaleas (though these get close sometimes) so I do not want to take the hedge trimmers to them. My neighbors love them and so do we but I would like to keep them at least between my chest and chin. What next?
A: Yep – those are big ‘uns!
I’d do it in two steps: when the flowers have dropped, immediately cut everything back to four feet. The will leave openings in the canopy that will stimulate new growth near the base. Mark your calendar to come back in late June. At that time, cut the thickest, oldest limbs to two feet and clip the tips of any new growth you see lower in the rest of the plant. The result will be a smaller shrub that I think will have time to set flower buds for next spring. Your job each spring thereafter is to remove vigorous growth after bloom, always trying to keep a natural look and promoting lower growth.