Flowering in bright colors, azaleas are popular shrubs that are simple to care for and easy to prune. Keeping your azalea bush healthy is easy if you prune at appropriate times. Consider the season, shape, size, and health of your plant when pruning to enjoy attractive azalea blossoms year after year.
The Azalea Society of America recommends pruning your plant in early spring before there is new growth. Although you sacrifice flowers, pruning at this time of year gives the plant a chance to fill out and mature before winter. This also lets the plant recover over a full growing season, ensuring lots of growth the coming spring. The next best time to prune is after blossoms have faded and before the new buds have formed in the summer. The advantage of this timing is that you can enjoy the flowers. Often budding starts again in July, so be sure to prune before then. If you fail to do so, the plant may not produce flowers the next season. Winter temperature can kill the tender new growths.
When your bush is overgrown, it's time to prune. Select several branches and trim by one-third. Avoid cutting the bush into a box shape as it leads to spotty flowering. Trim a few different branches each year to reduce the shock to the plant, and spread the overall pruning over 3 years.
Finally, if your azalea bush needs rejuvenating, pruning can help bring it back to life. Select 3 to 5 of the largest branches and cut back by one-third to one-half. Trim the other branches as if you were shaping the bush. If your region experiences drought conditions, your plant may wilt and develop fungal cankers. If you spot this on any branches, be sure to prune them so as to avoid the spread of the disease.