Episode 4: What's The Fuzzy White Stuff On My Azaleas?


About This Episode

In this episode of Southern Living’s Ask Grumpy podcast, Steve Bender, also known as the Grumpy Gardener, and his co-host Nellah McGough help a reader tackle an unusual azalea ailment called azalea leaf gall. Plus, Grumpy warns listeners about the treacherous Bradford Pear.

Question: My azaleas have weird growths on the leaves that start out green, then become fuzzy and white. What can I do to stop this?

Grumpy Gardener Answer: Okay, this is another very common problem that people have. It's a fungus called azalea leaf gall, which is spread by spores, they're in the air, they're everywhere. You can't keep this fungus out of your yard. So it doesn't really hurt the plant, it just makes it look ugly. And what happens is, you'll see the leaves, they start looking weird, like they're alien leaves. And they look kind of like cauliflower and they get real thick, and then they turn light green. As they get older, they turn this kind of grayish-white, and that's the color of all the spores that spread to other leaves. Now, the easiest way to control this, it's real simple. If you get out there before the problem is too far along, you just pick off the weird-looking leaves, throw 'em in a bag, throw 'em in the trash, and there's no more spores to spread to the rest of your azaleas.If it's really bad, you can spray your azaleas with a fungicide to stop the fungus from taking over, and that'll work for the whole growing season. But I'd say your best bet is just to get out there, they're easy to pick off. Just throw 'em in a bag, throw 'em out with the trash, and you won't have hardly any next year.

I would use a fungicide that you can get at most garden centers. It's called Daconil, D-A-C-O-N-I-L, and follow it according to label directions, and be sure to wear gloves when you're spraying. And that will stop the fungus from spreading on your azaleas.

Tip Of The Week

Avoid the Bradford Pear

Okay. If you people are going out, and you're going to the garden center or nursery, and you're looking for a flowering tree, please, please, please do not buy a Bradford pear. Bradford pears are a nationwide menace. Everybody loves them because they have beautiful white flowers in the springtime, they're easy to grow, it's hard to kill, even if you want to, they turn a beautiful red color in the fall. But there's really serious problems.

Problem 1: The flowers stink. I think they smell like fish. So, if you'd like to have a yard that everybody comes over and says, "Let's go to the fish house," okay, well, fine, plant a Bradford pear. Problem 2: The second reason you don't want to plant a Bradford pear is because, when it gets 25 to 30 feet tall, it has very weak branching. And so, it's the first tree that's either going to fall apart, or fall over, or just send branches crashing through your roof. It's a very weak tree. And so, even if it doesn't do any damage to your house, you're gonna best luck with a half a tree until that half falls down. You don't like that.
Problem 3: The worst thing about Bradford pear though, and this has to do with every flowering pear, not fruiting pears, but flowering pears, is that when they cross-pollinate, they produce these real hard, little, teeny pairs on the tree, and they're all filled with fertile seed. And so, the birds eat them, and they spread these everywhere. And when you see flowering trees, white flowers, in the woods in the springtime, or by the side of the road, or in drainage ditches, or my favorite, around shopping malls, because that's where, all the the landscapers planted 'em, these are seedling Bradford pears.
Problem 4: They're very invasive. The seedlings are all viciously thorny. you can not get close to these things, they make an impenetrable thicket. It's not a tree that we need more of in your state, or in this country. And a lot of states are banning them, so, find some other tree that's, an ornamental tree, that you like, but don't plant a Bradford pear. There's only one, good use for a Bradford Pear, and that's food for a wood chipper.

About Ask Grumpy

Introducing Ask Grumpy, a new podcast featuring Steve Bender, also known as Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener. For more than 20 years, Grumpy has been sharing advice on what to grow, when to plant, and how to manage just about anything in your garden. Tune in for short episodes every Wednesday and Saturday as Grumpy answers reader questions, solves seasonal conundrums, and provides need-to-know advice for gardeners with his very Grumpy sense of humor. Be sure to follow Ask Grumpy on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen so you don't miss an episode.

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript does not go through our standard editorial process and may contain inaccuracies and grammatical errors.

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