Now that the azalea blooms are dying back, it's time to prune. Not with a giant electric bushwacker or even big shears...these things are meant for trimming just the very ends of leaf stems.
Mobile Botanical Gardens Executive Director Bill Finch says the trick to pruning azaleas--even a yard full of big azaleas--is a simple hand pruner. Look for stems protruding out above the main shape of the bush, then cut that stem below the main canopy of leaves. Even large azaleas will quickly come under control.
If, through years of poor pruning or some other reason, your older azaleas look stringy or empty along the sides, you can use larger loppers to cut them back to within 5-6 inches of the ground. They'll come back in a year or two. Don't do this often.
The best way to deal with azaleas is to be careful what you're planting in the first place. Many of Mobile's most popular azaleas--like the Southern Indian variety--grow to 10-12 feet. If you plant one next to your house, especially near a window, you'll forever be fighting it back. There are many beautiful varieties of azalea that--full grown--are only 2-4 feet tall.
Learn more about azaleas at the Mobile Botanical Gardens or check out their web site at mobilebotanicalgardens.org.