Azalea Leaves Turning Red? (5 Reasons+Solutions)
People who grow azalea know how much this shrub can contribute to the visual appeal of their gardens, especially in the spring, when its colorful and vibrant flowers come to full display.
Azalea is still a sight to behold even after the blooming season, thanks to its rich foliage and shiny green leaves.
In the fall, azalea leaves will gain beautiful shades of red, changing the scenery, but are still as beautiful as the spring blooms.
However, sometimes you may notice azalea leaves turning red before the fall, during spring or summer.
When this happens, it’s typically a sign of some underlying problem and an issue your plant may be having.
The azalea leaves discoloration can occur due to several reasons and learning about them is important if you want to prevent further damage.
To help out, I’ll list the most common causes and explain what to do in those situations.
So, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Reasons Why Azalea Leaves Turning Red
Azalea leaves turning red is one of the ways for a plant to tell us that it’s under stress and that there’s something hindering its proper growth.
While this is no reason to panic, these signs should still be taken seriously and, in most cases, will require immediate action to stop the issue from becoming more severe and seriously damaging the plant.
Azalea’s leaves can turn red for a variety of reasons, but the most common include nutrient deficiency, improper watering, lack of or excessive sunlight, or various diseases and infections.
Most of these problems can be dealt with rather easily as long as you react on time.
That’s why it’s important to regularly monitor your azalea and keep an eye on the potential color change of the leaves.
Below, I’ll take a closer look at each of these common issues.
Azalea best thrives when planted in soil that is moist but well draining. This means that it doesn’t like conditions that are too wet, nor those that are too dry.
In either of these scenarios, azalea leaves will become weak, wilt, and change their color to shades of red.
So, the key is to strike the right balance.
Adding too much water, especially if the soil doesn’t have decent draining properties, will cause waterlogging and can easily lead to root rot.
The roots in these conditions will not be able to properly absorb nutrients from the soil and if this goes on for a longer period the plant may even die.
Underwatering the plant may not issues that seriously, but can still be very damaging in the long term.
This is especially the case in the areas that normally have hot climates, as that will require more watering than normal.
What to Do?
It’s important to know that azaleas don’t have a standard watering schedule that you can implement year-round.
Each season will require a different watering routine and the plant will need different amounts of water to develop depending on the conditions in its environment.
In general, during the summer months, you should water the azaleas more generously, so the soil will be constantly moist.
Still, even in warm weather, be careful not to overdo it and make the spoil too wet and damp.
The good rule of thumb is to check the soil occasionally by simply testing the top one or two inches with your finger. If it feels dry, then it’s time to add water.
Otherwise, hold off watering for a couple of days.
Lack of Sunlight
Like all plants, azalea needs sunlight to be able to grow and develop.
Without enough light, the plant won’t be able to properly perform photosynthesis and will suffer as a result.
One of the most common symptoms will be its leaves turning red and leaning toward the source of light.
This happens because, in these conditions, as well as whenever it’s stressed, azalea will produce anthocyanins, a red pigment that plays a role in protecting the plant from damage but causes leaves discoloration.
What to Do?
The easiest way to deal with the lack of sunlight is to relocate the azalea to a spot where it will get more exposure to the sun.
However, be careful not to expose it directly to the sun, as it may also have negative effects.
You may also consider removing all the objects that are blocking the azalea’s access to light, as well as trimming the surrounding greenery.
You should look to provide your plant with around 6-8 hours of indirect sunlight per day.
Just like the lack of sunlight is a bad thing for azaleas, so is too much of it.
Too much strong sunlight falling onto azalea leaves will hinder their normal functioning and cause the leaves’ cells to collapse.
As a result, leaves may change their color, wilt, and, eventually, fall off.
If the direct exposure to the strong sunlight continues over a longer period, the plant may not even survive.
What to Do?
While they enjoy sunlight, azaleas still prefer to be kept in more shady spots, where they won’t get direct exposure.
Also, look to place your azalea in a location where most of the sun it will get will be during the early morning when it’s not yet so intensive.
The morning sun is just mild enough not to damage the plant but still provides it with enough light to properly perform photosynthesis.
Lack of Nutrients
Another fairly common reason why azalea leaves may turn red is nutrient deficiency. This usually occurs when the soil is lacking some of the basic nutrients it is not acidic enough.
The nutrients azalea needs the most and will suffer if it’s not getting enough of them are nitrogen, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium.
An insufficient level of any of these essential nutrients will create various symptoms in azalea plants, including the discoloration of its leaves.
Plus, it will stunt the plant’s growth and hinder its proper development.
What to Do?
There are several things you can do to deal with nutrient deficiency. A good idea is to first check the pH level of the soil to determine how acidic it is.
If the pH level is above 5 – 5.5, you should take steps to lower it and allow the plant to absorb nutrients more efficiently.
To increase the level of essential nutrients in the soil, you can use organic compost or fertilizers.
If adding compost or mulch make sure that it’s well-rotted and has been standing for around a year, as that will allow the soil to retain its acidic pH.
When using fertilizers, find the formula that is specifically created for azaleas.
Also, always follow the instructions, when it comes to diluting and the amount of fertilizer to add.
Too much fertilizer will have negative effects and may burn the root.
Fungal or bacterial infections are also a fairly common reason why azalea leaves may change color and turn red, yellow, or brown.
Often the affected plant will have leaves combine all these colors, with brown spots in the center and red and yellow edges.
The most common disease azaleas can suffer from is leaf spot. It can occur for a variety of reasons.
Commonly, it’s caused by poor watering practices or heavy rainfall that make the soil and the plant environment too moist.
This creates a perfect breeding ground for fungi and bacteria.
The water from rain or watering also acts as a transmitter for fungi and bacteria that attach themselves to leaves as the water splashes on them.
Often the disease will attack plants that are already vulnerable due to pest infestation or toxic herbicides.
What to Do?
Most of these diseases, including leaf spots, can be difficult to treat, so the best way to fight against them is to work on prevention.
To decrease the risk, grow azaleas with plenty of space between individual plants to increase air circulation and at a location where they can get plenty of sunlight.
This will work to prevent damp and dark conditions that fungi favor.
When the disease is already in progress, you may use some of the fungicides developed specifically for these purposes.
Plus, make sure to remove the infected foliage and clean up all the fallen leaves around the plant. However, be aware the success rate is not the greatest, so focus your efforts on prevention.
If the leaves of your azalea are turning red, you should pay attention to it and look to investigate the potential causes.
Of course, if this happens, in the late fall, it’s most likely a part of a perfectly natural process and there are no reasons for concern.
Otherwise, if the leaves change their color due to poor watering practice, lack of nutrients, over or underexposure to sunlight, or similar reasons, you should react as soon as possible to prevent any further damage to your plant.
As always, it’s best to focus on prevention and direct your efforts toward creating a favorable environment where the azaleas can thrive and enjoy healthy growth.