Question of the Week: December 26, 2019 – Number 3

I came across this planting of reblooming azaleas in flower on January 3 just a couple of years back. But as “happy” as the plants seemed to be, their older leaves were still starting to turn yellow and drop.

“Neil, why are my live oaks, azaleas and roses losing their leaves?”

I get this question a lot this time of year. We think of these plants as being evergreen in Texas, but in reality, they lose half or more of their leaves over the winter. It varies from plant to plant.

Most live oaks, for example, hold most of their leaves until late February or early March. That’s when they drop them and become almost totally bare for a couple of weeks while they gear up to start growing for spring. November 2019 was unusual, however. We had some of the coldest early winter weather ever. Live oaks over big parts of Texas started shedding their leaves and it has continued on even until now. But it’s no big cause for concern.

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Azaleas, roses, abelias and several other species of shrubs do the same thing, but they do so almost every year. Azaleas will drop half or more of their leaves, usually the oldest ones first. They turn yellow, and within a couple of weeks they’ll be on top of the ground. Rarely do the plants go completely bare.

All of this is completely normal and no major cause for concern. Take care that your plants are watered deeply during dry spells. Cover cold-sensitive types with frost cloth when extreme weather is forecast. Otherwise, don’t lose any sleep over it. They’ll be just fine come spring.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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