How to care for azaleas

in
Azaleas well-cared for

Azaleas and rhododendrons both belong to the rhode family and are often confused. The azalea is an herbaceous perennial bush. It is distinguished by a single flower growing at the end of a stem. Usually all blooms appear at the same time. It is noted for its fall colors. Blooms can be white or purple.

Azaleas are prolific bloomers once they are established. Different varieties bloom at different times of the year. With carefully planning, you can enjoy blossoms throughout the season.

Plants may be anywhere from low growing types to those that reach at much as 12 feet. Learn how to care for azaleas and plan your garden accordingly.

Choosing a locale

Picking the right place for your azaleas can be summed up in two terms: partial shade and acidic soil. The soil should be well drained. Azaleas should be protected from wind as well. Choose an area where delicate plants will not be subjected to strong winds. Test for acidity; azaleas prefer 5.0 to 6.5 pH.

Find a place with companion plants that will provide shade without competing for root space. The azalea has a shallow root system, so planting near a tree with a deep root and a love of acidic soil is the best choice.  Red oak and certain pines are good candidates.

Planting

Azaleas should be planted from mature plants. If you attempt to grow from seed, you may have to wait as long as 10 years for the first blooms. Plant in late fall or early spring for best results. Plants that will be wintering need to become established before cold weather sets in. Check information on tag to learn how large to expect the variety to grow. Choose a plant that is hardy for your growing region. Plants that have been hybridized to produce blooms at a certain time of year may not do well outside.

Prepare the soil by adding compost or manure, and peat moss. Mix in sand if needed for drainage. Azaleas do not tolerate lime. Allow ample room for roots to spread. Hole should be about 1 ½ times the size of the rootball. Loosen roots so they can spread out into the surrounding soil. Roots may extend as far as 6 feet beyond the plant itself.

Add a mulch to protect from weeds and drying out of roots.

Fertilizer

Use a packaged fertilizer created for plants with acidic needs. Use very sparingly. Do not fertilize right after planting. New plants cannot tolerate the additional stress of fertilization. As the season progresses, add the fertilizer at the drip line of the spreading plant.

Pruning and seasonal care

Be very selective when pruning. Cut back right after blooming, if at all. Development of next year’s blooms begins right away. Any pruning risks cutting away the tender, new buds.

Before the first frost, cover with a mulch. During the growing season, keep plants well watered. Plants may be grown in pots and brought inside for the winter.

Enjoy indoors and out

You may first be introduced to azaleas as a potted house plant. After enjoying the blossoms inside, you can transplant outdoors. If you learn how to care for azaleas, you can enjoy them in your home or garden.