When the beautiful azaleas bloom, it’s difficult to resist the temptation of adding one or more to your landscape. Although they have a reputation for being finicky, these spectacular shrubs are easy to grow once you understand their basic needs. By selecting the right azaleas for your home and taking care of them properly, you can grow your very own gorgeous azaleas. Choosing Your Azalea Varieties Thanks to modern plant breeders, azaleas are no longer just for southern and coastal gardeners. Gardeners across the United States can enjoy beautiful azaleas by selecting the right plants from the beginning. When choosing the best azaleas for your garden, keep the following considerations in mind: Growing zone: Flower buds on spring-blooming azaleas form long before winter. Choosing types that can withstand your winter temperatures is crucial to spring blooms. Many azaleas are only bud-hardy in the country’s southern half, but some northern-bred types can withstand minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Your county extension agent can help with zone information and tips on plants that will thrive. Light conditions: Azaleas are often considered shade plants, but many varieties tolerate direct sun – and some even require it. In northern climates, where sun is less intense, azaleas often prefer more sun. Choose azaleas that fit your garden’s light conditions to help ensure attractive leaves and plentiful blooms. Mature size: Some azaleas, including native types, reach towering heights of 20 feet or more. But home gardeners have many smaller options. Dwarf azaleas grow 2 to 3 feet tall, and many garden azaleas stay 4 to 6 feet in height. Select azaleas based on mature height and width, not their size when you buy them. Bloom time: Azaleas are famous for springtime beauty, but they come in early, mid-, or late-flowering varieties. Reblooming types flower in spring and again in fall. Extend the show for months by growing azaleas with staggered bloom times. Flower color and form: Azalea flowers offer something for everyone in their broad color range and flower forms from thin, spider-like petals to full, ruffled blooms. Eliminate surprises and buy azaleas when they’re blooming so you know exactly how flowers will look. Leaf retention: Some azaleas are “evergreen” and keep their leaves year-round, but others are “deciduous,” meaning they naturally drop their leaves in fall. Know what to expect from the type you choose so you can respond appropriately if leaves drop.
Azaleas belong to the same plant family as blueberries, and they require acidic soil with a pH range between 4.0 to 5.5 to thrive. When the soil pH is too high, some nutrients become unavailable, leading to yellow leaves and nutrient deficiencies. Gardeners in areas with higher soil pH may need to use soil amendments like sulfur or ammonium sulfate to meet azaleas’ soil pH needs. A soil test can determine the soil pH and recommend how to adjust it for azaleas. Azaleas also require well-aerated and well-draining soil to ensure proper root growth. Adding organic matter like compost during planting improves soil quality. It’s essential to plant azaleas at or slightly higher than their nursery pot level to avoid planting them too deep. As azaleas have shallow root systems, they are susceptible to water stress. Azalea soil should always be evenly moist, never drying out completely or staying overly wet. Newly planted azaleas require more water than shaded plants that don’t dry out as fast. Organic mulch helps retain soil moisture and prevent soil temperature fluctuations. To avoid overwatering, check the soil around your azalea by hand, and water when it’s dry to the touch. Water deeply and thoroughly, so each plant gets water equivalent to about 1 inch of rain per week in summer. Avoid watering the leaves and opt for drip irrigation or watering the soil around the plant. Water early in the day, so the sun can dry leaves when they do get wet and prevent fungal diseases.
To give your azaleas the necessary nutrients, it’s best to use a premium fertilizer specifically designed for them, like Peppingtom UltraGreen Azalea, Camellia & Rhododendron Plant Food 10-8-6. This blend contains the essential nutrients needed for healthy foliage and beautiful blooms, with added sulfur to maintain optimal soil pH. Calcium, iron, and magnesium are also included to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Apply the fertilizer in early spring and again 12-16 weeks later, watering the entire area well but being careful not to over-fertilize. Azaleas are prone to pests and diseases like mites, scale, lace bugs, and powdery mildew. Use Sevin Sulfur Dust to prevent or eliminate damage without harming your plants or pets, applying lightly and frequently as needed. If you choose to prune your azaleas, timing is crucial. Prune immediately after blooming to avoid sacrificing flowers the following year. Dead or damaged wood can be pruned at any time, but be aware that pruning may affect future bud growth. By selecting the right types of azaleas and providing proper care, you can enjoy their stunning beauty for years to come. Peppingtom is committed to providing premium lawn and garden products and resources to help you achieve the garden of your dreams. Always read and follow product labels carefully.