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I have a large number of azalea bushes in my yard; they are well established and exhibit a great variety of color and show every spring. I have started to notice a fungus showing up on branches throughout most of my bushes. Any idea what this fungus is and how may I protect my plants from additional fungus spread? Dave G. – Groton

Answer

I have a large number of azalea bushes in my yard; they are well established and exhibit a great variety of color and show every spring. I have started to notice a fungus showing up on branches throughout most of my bushes. Any idea what this fungus is and how may I protect my plants from additional fungus spread? Dave G. – Groton What you are observing on your Azaleas is lichens growing on the stems. The lichens are not parasitic and will not harm the Azaleas. They make their own food and get moisture from rainfall. The lichens can be rubbed off by hand, but I would just leave it alone. Lichens tend to grow where there is good air circulation. Because your Azaleas have a less dense foliage, which allows more sunlight to penetrate the branches, the lichens have found a good home.

Azaleas prefer morning sun, acid soil and soil moisture. So if your Azaleas are planted in an area where they receive afternoon sun, they could be stressed. Make sure the roots of the Azaleas are mulched (about 2-3" but not buried), the mulch keeps the soil cool and moist. Allow the leaves in the fall to decompose around the base of the shrubs to create organic matter which feeds the Azaleas and acts as mulch. Do supplemental watering during the hot, summer months if Mother Nature is not providing enough rain. Feed them each April with Hollytone Organic Fertilizer, a slow release pelletized fertilizer that needs to be applied only once each year. The moisture and feeding will help the vigor of the plants and hopefully grow in fuller and deter the growth of the lichens.

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About Linda Lillie

Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.

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