Q: We’ve been in our house for 4 years, and I don’t remember our azaleas ever looking like this in the fall or winter. The older leaves are yellow and turning red. Is this something I should worry about or do I just have a poor memory?
A: You’re not old enough to have a poor memory!
I, on the other hand, can barely remember where I put my cereal spoon!
You have to keep in mind that although we think of azaleas as evergreen, they are, to varying degrees, semi-deciduous. They drop a certain percentage of leaves each winter.
Large-leaved varieties, like the Indica clan seem more likely to show marked yellowing than the Kurume group.
Azalea growers struggle with leaf drop every year. Much research has been done but varying amounts of fertilizer seems not to have much effect.
In other words, what you’re seeing is normal behavior for azaleas and rhododendrons. The yellow leaves are those that were produced back in spring, when life looked good for the plant. They are more delicate than leaves produced in summer, so they are the first to drop when cold weather arrives. As long as the leaves on the tips of your azalea are green, the plant is healthy. It will fill in with more leaves next year.
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