How to determine if it’s too late to prune azaleas

If you find flower buds at the ends of azalea branches, it's too late to prune them. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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If you find flower buds at the ends of azalea branches, it's too late to prune them. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Q: I need to prune my azaleas and rhododendron. Is it too late? Frankie Wallace, email

A: Check the ends of the shrub branches. If there are flower buds present, you’ll be cutting off next year’s flowers if you prune now.

Q: I have been fighting a losing battle with torpedograss in my lawn and flower bed. I put down cloth barrier, plastic barrier, and old carpet. However, the roots of the grass are so aggressive, they go straight through the barrier. Samuel Harris, Marietta

A: Torpedograss has shallow roots (rhizomes) that have a sharp, hard point, giving it the ability to penetrate most barriers. There are no selective herbicides that will control it. Instead, apply glyphosate herbicide to the weed, using a foam paintbrush to avoid contact with your flowers. For larger areas, as in your lawn, spray once then do a follow-up three weeks later. Both your lawn grass and the torpedograss will be killed. After that, you can replant your lawn grass.

Q: I planted 12 wax leaf ligustrums the last week in May to border my backyard. Eight of them are doing great but one completely died and three more look like they are slowly dying. The leaves are turning brown and most of the lower half of the bushes is bare. They all receive the same amount of watering. Shawn Hill, email

A: Despite your description, I think parts of the root balls got too dry. Despite watering them all the same, soil density and percolation can make water that is applied to the soil surface travel in unexpected ways underground. The last 60 days have had an average high temp of 89 degrees. That’s a lot of heat stress to put on a new shrub. Continue watering faithfully but make sure the soil around the root ball of each one is saturated before moving to the next.

Q: I used to use cypress mulch for its longevity properties but my mulch supplier has switched to cedar blend mulch. Does cedar blend mulch have equivalent longevity in flower beds? Robert Twilling, Cartersville

A: Pure cypress mulch will last longer than cedar blend mulch. Cedar blend is composed of shredded cedar or juniper trees plus material from other types of trees. This “non-cedar” material will decompose faster than pure cedar or cypress mulch. You might have to purchase a bit more mulch than you did previously, but cypress mulch is problematic from an environmental perspective, so I prefer the cedar blend product.

Email Walter at Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website,, or join his Facebook Page at, for his latest tips.