Choosing and Planting Azaleas
Azaleas are one of the most popular flowering shrubs in our area, and for a very good reason – their spring floral display is absolutely beautiful! You can extend the azalea blooming season in your landscape by choosing varieties that bloom at different times. Among the hundreds of Azalea varieties available some are early bloomers, bursting forth each spring usually around late March; others are mid-season bloomers coming in around early to mid-April; and then there are the late season bloomers saving their delicate blossoms until late April and even early May.
Other characteristics to look for when choosing Azaleas are the color, size and shape of the flowers as well as the mature size of the plant. Azaleas are available in almost every shade of red, pink, magenta, lilac and white imaginable, with small, medium or large flowers that could be double, semi double or single, and in sizes ranging from two to eight feet tall and wide!
Azaleas are true garden aristocrats. To keep them blooming prolifically and as beautiful as they can be, you will need to follow a few simple directions for their care.
Planting Location: Azaleas need a well drained location with morning sun and afternoon shade. They will not thrive in wet areas and too much sun can harm their leaves and fade their flowers. Shelter Azaleas from drying winds. The north, northeast or east side of a building or stand of evergreens or the filtered shade under tall trees can provide ideal conditions.
Proper Planting: Azaleas can be planted any time of the growing year, even when in full bloom. Spring and early fall are ideal times for planting. Summer is okay if you give extra care to watering.
To ensure proper drainage, Azaleas should be planted high, with 1/8 to 1/4 of the rootball above the existing ground level in a hole at least twice as wide as the rootball. Make planting mix of 1/3 Composted Leaves and 2/3 original soil. Add Holly-tone fertilizer to the planting mix at the rate of 1 cup per foot of the plant’s width. If the Azalea was in a pot, make sure to loosen the root system. Place the plant in the hole; add planting mix and pack mix firmly. Mound soil up to top of rootball. Water in with Root Stimulator. Mulch 2-3” deep making sure to keep mulch away from stem of the plant.
Watering: For the first season, spring and summer waterings should be done 2-3 times per week until fall, then once a week until Christmas. Always check the soil’s moisture before watering (it should be lightly moist several inches down). Following years, water Azaleas about once a week when there has not been a good soaking rain. Plants will need more water in hot summers and while in flower.
Pruning: Azaleas rarely need to be pruned. When pruning is required, it should be done immediately after blooming. If you wait until summer, you may cut off next year’s blooms. Azaleas may be sheared as they will send out new shoots anywhere on a branch.
Winter Care: Apply several inches of mulch to protect roots. Remove in stages through the spring as the weather warms. Use Wilt-Pruf or a burlap screen to protect azaleas from winter dehydration. NEVER use plastic to cover plants.