My azalea leaves look washed out. I don’t see anything on them. Any ideas?
The answer to this situation lies on the back or undersides of the leaves. Its azalea lace bug -you can see where they live as well as those black spots – that’s their excrement. Starting in spring, usually around the time flowering is finished, the lace bug eggs hatch and both adult and nymph lace bugs pierce the leaf’s underside and suck the juices from the plant. That’s why the leaves become chlorotic looking, lose their color, and many times drop off early. Good thing is, azaleas can withstand quite a hit from lace bug and continue to grow and flower. But it is best try and control lace bug damages and minimize the stress on the plant. Try to catch them early in the season – watch for them right after flowering. Spraying the undersides of the leaves with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil does a nice job, but may need repeated applications every 3-4 weeks, as there are multiple generations. And remember, spray the undersides. You can also help from the inside of the plant by applying a systemic insecticide as a soil drench early in the spring. A combination of the two usually helps keep azalea lace bug in check. And remember good cultural practices – feed as needed in the spring, and water as needed thru the summer. A healthy azalea is a great defense against lace bug infestations.