Care of Azaleas
If planted in a favorable
location and given the proper growing conditions, azaleas are easy, carefree,
and long-lived plants. The trick is in having, creating, or finding those
favorable growing conditions.
Choosing a Location
Azaleas can grow in sun as well as in shade,
but their flowering season will be longer with morning sun and afternoon
shade. An azalea needs to be...
moist. Azalea feeder roots extend only about 8 inches into the
soil and need to be watered during times of drought. They do not thrive
in soggy wet areas.
Well-supplied with peat moss, chopped oak
leaves, or oak compost to keep the soil relatively
acid (pH below 6.0) and light.
Sheltered from drying
winter winds by a building, evergreens, or other shrubs
The north, northeast,
or east sides of a building or stand of evergreens
Filtered shade under
Azaleas can be planted
at ANY TIME of the growing year, even when in full bloom. Spring and fall
are ideal times for planting. Summer is okay if you give extra care to
be planted high, with 1/8 to 1/4 of the rootball above the existing ground
level. This ensures proper drainage. Dig the planting hole at least twice
as wide as the rootball. If the azalea has
been in a container, be sure to loosen the roots gently. Place the plant
in the hole, add a mix of original soil and peat moss or composted leaves,
and pack in firmly. Mound the soil up to the top of the rootball. Water
in well, and mulch 2-3" deep making sure to keep mulch away from the stem
of the plant.
Summer Care of Azaleas
For the first season,
the spring and summer waterings should be done two to three times a week
until fall. In a dry fall, water once a week until Christmas. Check the
moisture in the soil; it should be lightly moist several inches down. Azaleas
need more water during summer and when in flower.
Azaleas rarely need
to be pruned. When pruning is required, it should be done immediately after
blooming. Or, use azaleas as cut flowers and prune them that way. Azaleas
may be sheared, as they will send out new shoots anywhere on a branch.
One of the most common
mistakes with azaleas is overfeeding. They are extremely sensitive to excessive
levels of nitrogen around their fibrous roots. They do benefit, however,
from infrequent light feeding with a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving
plants. In good garden soils, little fertilization should be necessary.
If you are using organic
mulches such as wood chips, sawdust, or shredded oak leaves, additional
nitrogen will be needed.
Winter Care of Azaleas
Protection from winter
wind and sun is especially important for the evergreen varieties. Due to
their shallow root systems, azaleas cannot reach below the frost line and
transmit water to their leaves when the ground is frozen. Yet their evergreen
leaves constantly transpire water, even in the coldest winter. Sun and
wind at this vulnerable time can be deadly.
Apply several inches
of mulch to protect roots by moderating the soil temperature. This process
will also lessen damage from rapid freezing and thawing. Remove the mulch
in stages in spring as the weather warms. For especially windy or unprotected
locations, try a burlap screen to protect azaleas from winter dehydration.