WIntering azalea

digger714

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Hello everyone. It got pretty cold here last night in nc. The temps hit 16. One of my azalea's leaves are wilting a little bit this am. It is buried in mulch, and was watered yesterday. Should i bring it in the garage when it gets that cold?
 
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Dav4

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One of the things I've noted about Rhododendrons over the years (azaleas are Rhodies) is that temps that fall to 20F or lower will cause their leaves to curl temporarily...I think this is a defense against dessication from winter winds. If the pot is properly mulched and the tree is out of the wind, I wouldn't worry about it.

Dave
 

jk_lewis

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It was 20 here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and the temps got down to 20F. My azaleas are sitting on the bonsai tables, just as they do all 365 days of the year. They're fine. And will be fine when the temps go down more tonight. They've been doing that for the last 6 years.

Here's a pic of one, taken just a few minutes ago:
 

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watchndsky

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living in the piedmont - i get fairly mild winters (usually) - i usually dont have to do anything for protection until the late frosts starting hitting (when buds are popping and trees are vulnerable). there may be 3-4 nights at the most that i freak out and bring them in the garage(temps <15 degrees). last year was a little colder than usual - this year is getting me a little worried though- i havent seen it this cold, this early (and with 2 inches of snow) since i was a child.

when my collection was smaller - i had a cold frame - worked out well because could fold up and store and slid up against edge of house to store them during colder spells.

then my collection grew - but winters were so mild - never was a problem

as my collection (and relative worth of it) has grown - im starting to get a little worried. im considering mulching around them (which totally negates the aesthetic value of the nice benches i built - but really do not want to

one- because i would be varying from the usual routine which has served me well for last 8-10 years
two - because it makes the backyard look stupid and ive spent alot of money and sweat on it
three - i really dont have a good means to ensure drainage etc
four - its a pain to fool with and i have enough hobbies that are a PITA

im curious that you live so close to the mountains (assuming your near mountains - since you said foothills) and have never done anything for winter protection either. last winter we had temps down as low as 9 degrees F. have you left your trees out in weather that cold with no ill effects?

i know there are no hard and fast rules - and the net is full of bad info - but i think i read many years back where brent from evergreen says 15 degrees is the lowest you should go. im inclined to follow his advice - but have always wondered what folks in colder climates do (especially those with larger trees and large collections. i know snow can insulate - but what do you when you have no snow or insulating material, 30mph winds and temps from 5-15 degrees? are there people out there that mulch 30-40 trees?
 

woodguy

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I am in zone 6 and have kept azaleas for the last couple years. They stay outside no matter how cold it gets. I do mulch in the couple that are in very shallow pots and move them into an area that is out of the wind, but other than that. One azalea I have looses a lot of it's leaves in the winter but replaces them quickly in the spring. Like Dav4 mentioned the leaves do curl when it gets real cold. If you look outside and all the Rhodie leaves look like pencils you know it's cold.
 

digger714

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I think its because its gotten so cold so fast. Even the ones in the ground are loosing more leaves than normal. Around 11 last night, it was about 25, and the main one im talking about looked fine, then at 6 this am it was drooping. By lunch time, it had perked back up, and looked normal. Then tonight about an hour ago i noticed it started drooping again, so i brought it in, and its perking back up. This is only my second winter, and only have a few that are in pots, most are in containers of some kind. This azalea is in a 10 gallon nursery container, so it hasnt even been reduced yet. It snowed on it last year, and was fine. Any thoughts? It was collected in florida in May 2009, and i got it in december of 09.

I use mulch on about 40 trees i have in containers, slabs, and pots. Some of them are 24" x 18", so it took me around 20 bags of mulch. I use cypress mulch.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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They should be fine under mulch. Bringing them in is when you start to lose trees...

I mulch everything in under my benches, using pine straw raked up from the back yard. They've been fine in those conditions, even down to single-digits. And, the break from watering is appreciated!
 

jk_lewis

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Mulch them or not, but you really should not move them in and out. They need a steady environment.

I've had azalea out in single digit temps, and they've ben OK. I don't baby my trees. My podocarpus is exposed all winter -- except when temps get to the mid 20s and I cover it and move it against the south side of the house. Colder than the mid 20s and it goes inside in a cool room.

For some reason, I brought a bougainvillea in at the same time I brought my two figs inside. It is NOT happy, but it's too late to chenge its environment now.
 

digger714

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Do you think that watering them hours before the freeze stunted them? They were perked back up by lunch time yesterday, and then by 7 last night, they had started to droop again. The leaves seem to be darker in color than they were. Is this normal?
 

Bill S

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Do you think that watering them hours before the freeze stunted them? They were perked back up by lunch time yesterday, and then by 7 last night, they had started to droop again. The leaves seem to be darker in color than they were. Is this normal?
No, thats because it warmed, then cooled off to freezing again Yes, keep them at an even temp range and watch for drying, water as required. Keep them out of the house.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Do you think that watering them hours before the freeze stunted them? They were perked back up by lunch time yesterday, and then by 7 last night, they had started to droop again. The leaves seem to be darker in color than they were. Is this normal?
Ordinarily it's best to water trees before a freeze; but you risk pots cracking if the soil is too wet and the soil can't expand upward.

Your azalea reacted completely normally...no worries. They actually get nice fall color, but are rarely given credit for it! Here is a look back at one of mine, first, this summer, then 11/10, 12/09, and 12/08.
 

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rockm

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The "problem" with drooping leaves may have more to do with the wind than with temperature. If you've been having the constant dry wind we've had along with this deep cold snap, then the leaves may be curling because they're drying out faster than the roots can re-supply them with moisture. This can happen when the soil in the pot is frozen through--the leaves will not be getting moisture from the roots.

Frozen soil is not a huge problem, though. Shallow-rooted temperate zone plants deal with it all the time when they're in the ground. They can handle it. It can look alarming on some plants though. Mulching them can help with this issue.

If you mulch them under, be sure to do it when the temps are above freezing. Also make sure the plant is watered well (and the soil is relatively thawed) before you pile on the mulch. Also make sure the mulch is wet through to the pot after you pile it on. Dry mulch piled on top of pots can draw moisture out of the soil and can lead to problems. Generally, after the intial wet down, you can leave it up to precipitation to keep things moist under the mulch.
 

woodguy

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Change in leaf color is normal and can be quite attractive.
 

digger714

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Thats whats making me nervous is that i did exactly that. I mulched it in last week, then watered the mulch good to make sure was wet all the way through. Then i watered the trees around 3pm on monday. Now i wish i had watered maybe 6 or 8 hours before it got to freezing instead of maybe 2-3 hours. Maybe you are right about the wind. It has been steady 10-15 mph or so with gusts up to 25 for the past two days. Here are a couple pics of it today around 5pm or so. If it starts to wilt again, ill post some more.
 

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Brian Van Fleet

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Man, those leaves look great! Not even a trace of lacebug damage either...quit yer whining...:D

Also...a good check point for newer enthusiasts; if you're worried about a bonsai that is indigenous, or at least hardy in landscapes in your neighborhood...the bonsai should behave pretty much like all their landscape counterparts in the neighborhood. Leaves fall off maples, elms, other d-trees... pines get a little darker or yellower, rhodies' leaves curl up, and junipers get bronze or blue...whether they're in pots or in the landscape. Seeing plants behave consistently in the landscape should help alleviate some anxiety about their pot-bound brethren...
 

digger714

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Lol, I knew you would say that when you saw them. They were all hanging down last night. It looked like it hadn't been watered in a month. They were grown in florida, dug up in nov 09, and i went back and got them in march. I think it even snowed on them here last winter. Think it was just the wind that caused this? Thanks again everyone.
 

BoneSci

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Just a word of caution for those in northern zones. In the past I have also left my azaleas outside half buried with leaves and/or mulch. However I have noticed, especially with the satsukis, that although the trees are fine, I lose many of the flower buds. They look normal from the outside, but never swell and when picked off are brown in the middle. I think there is a lower termperature limit that the flower buds can handle (~15F?) but below that it kills them. I now keep them in my unheated garage where it doesn't get as cold as outside.

Chris
 

rockm

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Your azalea looks fine. I would stress so much about it. You've done all you can do. At this point, you could be on the verge of harming them yourself if you're thinking about moving them inside.

Sometimes the urge to "do something" with bonsai is overwhelming when the best thing to do is just let them be.

That said, if you have a place (like a garage) that stays a bit warmer than outside, but remains below 40 consistently, you could move them there.

DON'T be tempted to mess around with them too much. Plants like consistent environments. They like to stay in one place. Moving them around makes them expend energy to adapt to each place you put them...
 

digger714

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I wouldnt think about putting inside, but havent seen anything droop like this except for when its hurting. Heres a pic from this am. Do you think as long as it perks up each day, it should be ok?
 

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rockm

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The leaves on my landscape Euonymous plants are drooping alot worse than that--as they have for the last 20 years that I've lived here. Cold winter winds and dry air do that to them. They get by, same for the lanscape azaleas next to them.

The droop on your azaleas doesn't look that bad, quit obsessing :D:D

When I started bonsai, I was convinced that my trees were in grave danger as the first frosts hit them. After work, I'd run out to Home Depot at the first news of frost was in the local forecast and buy plastic sheeting, mulch, insulation, etc. -speed home and frantically get everything under cover before the sun set and the dreaded cold sunk in...

After about five years of that hysteria, I was too tired to really care one winter. I just let my trees sit out -- until the middle of Dec. They froze solid for weeks. I thought I'd lost everything, but put them in storage anyway. The next spring, they looked healthier than they had in a very long time.

I had been coddling them and preventing them from entering dormancy properly. Winter dormancy cna be enhanced a bit by shallow freezes. It can "harden" the plants to deeper winter chills. Frost and freezing isn't necessarily all that bad.

The most dangerous time will come in the spring. As soil warms (and it warms quickly and steeply in a pot that's exposed to air temperatures) it stimulates plants to grow. That's terrific, BUT, once plants, especially deciduous and broadleaved evergreens begin growing, they LOSE about 95 percent of their ability to withstand freezing and frost. A short late freeze that they may have breezed through in Feb. could kill them in March. So, if you want to worry about something, worry about the coming spring and how your going to keep your trees from premature growth.:D:D
 
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