Azalea foliage is supposed to be green. So, when Azalea starts turning red, anyone who is growing azaleas for the first time would start to panic!
Azalea leaves turning red could be normal in the fall to the early winter season.
If the color change happens after fall/winter it could be due to reasons like nutrient deficiency, excess or lack of sunlight, too much shade, unsuitable watering, or leaf spot disease.
Thus to fix the Azalea, you need to take a closer look at all the reasons.
Azalea Turning Red Could Be Normal!
As odd as it may sound, azaleas turning red may be natural. Yes, you heard that right! Your azalea turning red may not be a problem after all. Changing from one season to another can cause this discoloration.
But it does not happen every season. When fall approaches, leaves change color from green to yellow, and then red. This is completely normal.
Actually, in fall the leaves of an azalea could become a range of colors. Some of the colors this season change may bring about are yellows, purples, and reds. If you have a collection of azalea variants in your garden, fall time can be colorful!
But, azaleas turning their shade to red when it isn’t the fall season could also be a sign of a problem. There are several aspects that could lead to azaleas turning red.
Azalea turning red due to Stress
When your azalea encounters stressful situations, it has a way of showing it. The plant will start to produce Anthocyanins as an immediate response.
These red or purple pigments are thought to help the plant in various ways.
Although their mechanism is not fully understood, they do help in certain activities such as:
- Protecting the plant from harmful UV rays
- Stimulates high photosynthesis efficiency even in low light
- Safety against predators
- Shields against cold temperatures
The best way to keep your plants from producing Anthocyanins and turning red is to prevent stress. Thus, you must make all conditions appropriate for the plants and maintain them as well.
Plant your plants in half-sun, half-shade sites where the temperature does not surpass 80℃ (26.7℉).
Keep them away from open drafts/wind, or heat sources. As for the soil, keep it moist but not wet. Soil has to be well-draining and mildly acidic.
Azaleas are moderate to heavy feeders. All nutrients they require are natural growth requirements. Lack of nutrients will usually result in poor growth or deformities that can affect the plant’s ability to flower.
Some nutrients and minerals they need are:
A lack of any of these nutrients can create varying symptoms in your azalea plants. Insufficient nutrient levels can stunt growth and induce discoloration of foliage.
The leaves may turn yellow, very dark green, or red.
Azalea plants will need fertile soil. If your soil cannot provide it, you’ll have to find an alternative method of getting the nutrients to the plants.
A suitable option is adding mulch on top of the soil. But this mulch must be well-rotted (1-year-old) so that it retains its acidic pH. It is only at an acidic pH that azalea plants can best absorb nutrients.
To determine the nutrients causing red coloring, you can get your soil tested to determine the nutrient lacking. Also, you can conduct a soil pH test to assess the pH. Almost all azaleas like an acidic pH between 4.5 to 5.5.
If your soil fertility is low, you can use a special potting mix for acidic plants. Also, use a fertilizer (with an acidic fertilizer) once a year in Spring.
Has your azalea changed color to yellow but not getting any better? Find out why azaleas turn yellow with solutions to cure it.
Leaf Spot Disease
Plants are commonly affected by fungal and bacterial infections when the conditions become suitable for them.
As a result of these infestations, a color change will be visible in an azalea’s leaves. This color change could be yellow, brown, or even red!
How do these diseases start? Well, fungal spores can already be present in the air while bacteria are in the soil.
Any water splashing from rainfall or watering can cause soil to touch the azalea’s leaves. This is how the spores or bacteria attach to the leaves.
Usually, it is overly moist and warm conditions that lead to favorable conditions for fungi and bacteria.
Most times, but not all the time, red to brownish spots or discolorations can mean Leaf Spot disease.
Some fungicides are effective against fungal Leaf Spot disease. However, survival numbers don’t look great when such diseases occur. You will rather want to prevent them instead.
Prevention starts with removing damaged foliage before it becomes infected. Also, keep the plant free of fallen foliage that could start the infection.
Keep plants well spaced out. Try to avoid wet soil conditions as they do the plants no good and can leave the roots very vulnerable to rot and disease.
Too Much Shade or Lack of Sunlight
Shade is good for azaleas seeing as they cannot tolerate intense direct sunlight, at least not for long!
Shade is required as these plants have shallow roots, which direct sun can dry out if given the opportunity to do so.
Also, extended periods without sunlight would hinder photosynthesis. The plants will then start to react how they would in times of stress.
Occasionally, the plants may start to lean towards the sun if they can get to it by leaning or growing outwards. Of course, the leaves may still become red.
You can correct the red color change by making sure your azaleas get considerably more sunlight. Make sure shade coverage is not longer than sun coverage or else it means your plants won’t be growing much!
Your azaleas will definitely prefer receiving afternoon shade instead of morning shade. The afternoon sun can be brutal and is not good for your azalea plants.
Too much shade can kill a plant! You should watch your plant throughout the day when placing it in a new location.
You should ensure that it gets sun when it needs to and shade when it needs it. Too much shade and too little sun will mean less photosynthesis and less food!
Have a fairly shady garden? Get the answers to; can azalea grow in shade?
Sunlight is a basic requirement for all plants, as they are photosynthetic. They build food products, and sunlight and Chlorophyll are important ingredients.
Many azaleas are known to prefer a shade-favoring location. But still, sunlight is essential.
Azaleas need just enough sunlight to grow but not too much as this will create issues. Sunlight requirements will be satisfied with just morning sun.
Morning sunlight is mild enough to provide the plant with all the light it requires without killing the plant.
Lack of sunlight can cause your azalea plant to stress. As a result, Anthocyanin will be created and this can cause the color change, from green to red!
Placement is paramount when you need to make sure your azalea is getting enough sunlight to prevent stress.
Under taller Pine or Oak trees makes for a great spot. The taller trees offer dappled sunlight which is not too intense and is just adequate.
Azaleas require 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight. But this number increases to 8 to 10 hours of indirect sunlight if situated under trees.
Unsuitable Watering (Too Much/Too Little Watering)
The leading cause of azalea plant death occurs due to excessive watering, or sometimes even lack of watering.
When thinking about how much and how often to water azaleas, just remember they require constant moisture. This means moist soil.
Wet/watery soil or dry soil will cause unfavorable conditions for your azalea plants. In turn, leaves could become stressed or start to rot. Both of which may exhibit reddening of the foliage.
Waterlogging is a sign of overwatering, but light cracked soil is a sign of underwatering!
Other signs of incorrect watering include wilting, curling, limpness, or even loss of leaves! Keep an eye out for the above signs and symptoms.
An all-year-round watering schedule does not exist for azaleas. These plants have different watering requirements with every season.
This is only right seeing as temperatures change every season and so do the elements in play.
There are measures you can take to prevent your azaleas from turning red due to underwatering.
When watering, water generously enough to moisten the soil. In hot seasons, apply a thick layer of completely-rotted mulch to assist the plants.
To prevent overwatering, you should never water your plants without first checking the soil moisture. This can be done manually by testing the soil with your finger, or you can use a moisture meter.
Don’t water them just because you are bored or feeling very generous! This will be the start of problems you may not be able to fix.
You shouldn’t panic when your azalea plant turns red in the late fall or early winter season. This color change is natural!
However, if Azalea is turning red in summer or spring, there is another underlying reason for it.
A number of reasons as to why azaleas turn red are related to conditions that induce stress in these plants. Azaleas produce a chemical called Anthocyanin when under stress, this red to purple pigment can color the leaves red.
Stress inducing reasons for azaleas turning red are:
- Too much sun
- Lack of sun (excessive shade)
- More/less water (Incorrect watering habits)
- Leaf spot disease
You must try as hard as possible to make the environment suitable for azaleas. This will prevent them from stressing and changing color!
Azaleas do turn red in late fall. This odd coloring can persist till early winter. If your plants do change color in fall it is a natural color change and no cause of concern. There is nothing you can do to stop this transformation during this season. Just enjoy the show of colors!
An azalea could turn yellow as a sign that something is not right in the environment or the care given to it. Reasons for it turning brown are under/overwatering, lace bugs, fungal infections, fertilizer burn, or sun scorching. You must identify the real reason and then you can try to correct it.