too much pine straw in azaleas??????

Judith P
by Judith P
We recently bought a lake home in the Pinehurst, NC, area and have not gardened in that area before. We have a large area of long leaf pines on the lakefront with azaleas growing beneath. After trimming out deadwood and realizing some of the 25 or so plants have deadwood in the central crown area I am thinking the heavy layer of straw falling in the plants may have to be raked/pulled out of the bases of the plants possibly yearly in order for them to breathe. Anyone living in that area of NC have suggestions??
  9 answers
  • SawHorse Design Build SawHorse Design Build on Feb 24, 2012
    How old are the azaleas? I have noticed the same phenomenon in my garden, however I assumed that the deadwood was a result of the age of the bushes. I keep them pruned and add fertilizer that is appropriate for azaleas and they seem to be doing fine in spite of their age. I don't have pine straw around them, however do have wood chips to keep the moisture in the soil.
  • Walter Reeves Walter Reeves on Feb 24, 2012
    We have plenty of pine straw in Atlanta....but loblolly, not longleaf. It's possible that excess straw could cause damage. Was the center of the plants covered? Was the layer of straw around the plants more than four inches thick? Have you raked back the whole layer of straw back to bare earth?
  • Judith P Judith P on Feb 24, 2012
    The fallen pine straw is heavy and thick, about 6" or more. I don't know what the previous owner did for maintainence, but the straw is very thick and wet on the bottom. This will be our 1st spring there, it is a 2nd home. I think we need to rake back the straw to almost bare earth around each plant this spring and check again next year. Didn't want to do it if advice was not in agreement.
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Feb 25, 2012
    Are you planning on pruning them back any after they bloom this spring? How large are they?
  • Marvin R Marvin R on Feb 25, 2012
    I lived in Sanford NC my whole life which is 30 minutes from Pinehurst and ive never had a problem with to much pinestraw.From what i understand pine straw is acidic which is why azaleas love it so much.I cant imagine there beign to much pinestraw because it breaks down so fast here in my yard in fact i need to redo my plant beds now.Azaleas are pretty much no work for me i just add a Hollytone organic fertilizer from lowes.Congrats on the lake house it is such a beautifull area and the golf courses are among the best in the south.That area is growing so much me and my wife frequent there almost every other weekend. {0:
  • Walter Reeves Walter Reeves on Feb 25, 2012
    I think you should rake it out to bare earth and replace with fresh straw 3" thick.
  • SawHorse Design Build SawHorse Design Build on Feb 25, 2012
    Just wanted clarify that any landscapers that chime in should be considered before you take my advice. I am an expert when it comes to green construction however, landscaping is a hobby where I too an learning from the experts on Hometalk.
  • I agree with Mr. Reeves ....we have a property in atlanta where azaleas are planteded under large pines. Every year or two we remove the fallen pine straw around the base and inside the azaleas, thin them out a little after they bloom and lightly reapply fresh straw. This has greatly reduced the amout of deadwood and they look much healthier.
  • Jamie P Jamie P on Mar 22, 2012
    Azaleas are acid loving plants. The Pine straw is a natural fertilizer for them as well as a mulch. Heat stress and round up are two deadly villains in the azalea game. Azaleas at Calloway Gardens are naturally mulched with pine straw...There are several diseases that attack azaleas in stressed conditions and removing old straw MAY help but not necessarily. As the straw decays it creates soil that feeds the azaleas the high acid they like. Pine straw is also great mulch for blueberries and hydrangeas as well. I have azaleas that I grabbed out of the trash in Atlanta that I brought home to Knoxville and 8 years later they are thriving with a few exceptions. These plants were Bobcatted out of the ground with no care given... out of 33 mature plants we rescued, we have 25 thriving azaleas. All were cut back dramatically when planted. I used to live in Little Washington NC and azaleas do like it there but with high heat I would be careful of removing too much mulch. I do not make my living as a landscaper, I am a master gardener though and LOVE azaleas.