"Most of us may not realize that azaleas represent the main nursery crop grown in many states in the Southeast and along the Gulf Coast. In Louisiana, they represent seven percent of all nursery plants grown." - LSU Agcenter
As you can see, azaleas are the most popular shrub in Louisiana as well as most of the southeast. Anyone living in Louisiana or other gulf coast states would benefit from learning how to prune an azalea.
When to prune azaleas
Only prune azaleas to keep them at their current size or shape. Pruning an azalea to make it smaller than it currently is will not only look awful, but will damage the azalea, possibly killing it. This is regularly done when an azalea has been planted too close to a sidewalk or parking lot. You will notice it has one side lacking any leaves or flowers and looks dead. Azaleas have very few leaves past the layer you see. Azaleas also experience the majority of their growth during one short period a year. This means if you cut an Azalea too close, you will have a reminder of it the rest of the year, and maybe longer.
Historically the first time you prune an azalea each year should be in April or May. Although with the warm winters as of late, this seems to be changing. As a general rule you should prune your azaleas a week or two after all of their flowers have fallen off. This rule is easy to follow for traditional azaleas. Some newer varieties, such as the encore, will bloom throughout the year. It is still best to prune them shortly after they are done with a blooming period. Continue to trim the random shoot or two of new growth if they occur later in the year.
How to prune an azalea
What to do if your azaleas are too big
If you have azaleas that have grown too large for the area they were planted due to poor planning and pruning, you have three options: