"The Royalty of Flowers," azaleas, are a popular spring plant. They are hardy shrubs, requiring little maintenance. Deadheading, or the process of removing dead or faded blooms from azalea plants, is widely practiced. Deadheading is not done for aesthetic purposes (although that is a nice side-effect), but because removing dead blooms prevents the plant from putting all its energy into forming seed heads. By deadheading each spring or summer, you ensure your azaleas put all their energy toward creating buds for next year's flowers. You also help prevent disease, since rainy weather can cause dead blooms to become moldy.
How to Deadhead Azaleas
Examine the azalea branches for a spot between the new leaves and the old flower stem.
Place your fingers just under the dead azalea flower.
Avoid forming buds (they look like tiny brown knobs); these are next year's blooms and if you remove them your azalea may not bloom next year.
Press your fingers together.
Twist or bend your wrist to snap off the spent azalea blooms.
Repeat until all dead blooms are removed from the azalea plant.
Use clean pruners if the azalea resists deadheading by hand.
Place the spent blooms in a bucket or other easy to carry container. Don't throw them on the ground around the azalea; this can quickly spread disease.
Throw blooms or leaves that may be diseased in a plastic bag and into a garbage can. Plants with petal blight fungus have spots on the bottom of petals that eventually make the blooms look faded; azaleas with leaf spot fungus have dark brown or red spots on the leaves; plants with wilt fungus have shriveled leaves.
Toss dead blooms or leaves that aren't diseased into the compost bin or the trash can.
Prune the azalea plant once it's done blooming and all the dead flowers have been removed. Do this promptly, and you'll have plenty of blooms next spring; delay pruning, and you'll hinder new blooms next year.