Azaleas are lovely plants that produce a plethora of colorful blooms with frilly, attractive green leaves. Azaleas come in a variety of colors such as white, red, purple, pink, yellow and orange.
While azaleas frequently are found in florist shops or received as gifts, they are easy to grow when following a few easy suggestions without spending a fortune. Some azaleas received as gifts can even be planted outdoors in the right climates. Gardeners in USDA zones 6-8 have just the right weather conditions and climate to grow azaleas outdoors.
More about the Azalea Plant
Azaleas are a part of the same plant family as rhododendrons. They come in two basic varieties, namely, evergreen azaleas and deciduous azaleas. Deciduous azalea plants lose their leaves in the fall, while evergreen azaleas retain their leaves. Native azaleas are a North American species and are always deciduous, meaning they drop their leaves in the autumn each year. Japanese azaleas and are every color except yellow.
The flowers of azaleas are about 2-3 inches in diameter. These dainty flowers vary in flower type and shape, which include:
- Single flowers with 5-6 petals, a minimum of 5 stamens and one pistil.
- Hose-in-hose flowers, with 10-12 petals where the calyx becomes petals.
- Double flowers, in which a variable number of petals where nearly all of the calyxes become petals.
- Double hose-in-hose flowers with over 30 petals.
When Do Azaleas Bloom?
Most varieties of azaleas bloom anytime between April and May in the Mid-Atlantic regions of America. Some bloom slightly before April, while other varieties of azaleas bloom a second time in August through September. The bloom period depends upon the variety of azalea chosen by the gardener.
Azalea flowers also come in a wide variety of shapes such as round, wavy, narrow and ruffled. The variety of petal shapes, hardiness, and a variety of colors and shapes makes the azalea a landscaped flower in high demand enjoyed by many gardeners.
How to Grow Azaleas
Digging the Hole and Planting the Azalea Plant
Azaleas need a hole as large as the plant is. So if your azalea is about two feet tall and two feet wide, you will need to dig a hole that is two feet deep and two feet wide. If your azalea has roots curled around the inside of the pot, you will need to prune these roots before you plant your azalea. Leaving long, curled roots without pruning them will cause the plant’s roots to strangle the plant.
What Type of Soil Do Azaleas Prefer?
Plant an azalea in soil that is not too alkaline. Azaleas prefer slightly acid soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6. If your soil is not acid enough, specialized acid and food for the azalea can be added to the hole when the plant is placed. A mature, healthy azalea rarely needs added fertilizer, however.
Azaleas need well-drained soil. If your soil is compact, loosen it. Azaleas can even be planted with the root ball a few inches above the soil and dirt hilled around the base of the plant. Plants placed in heavy soils with little drainage tend to have more problems with disease. To keep your azalea evenly moist and the ground temperature from varying too much, use mulch such of several inches of pine bark, pine needles or wood chips around the base of your plant.
When to Plant Azaleas
Azaleas can be planted or transplanted in the early fall or early spring during cool weather conditions. They can also be planted in the winter in warmer climates.
How Much Sun do Azaleas Need?
Azaleas prefer high shade in general. Because of the wide number of varieties of azaleas, however, please check the instructions that come with the particular plant, as some varieties of azaleas prefer bright sunlight. The more sunlight an azalea receives, the more compact the azalea plant will be, and the shorter the flowers will bloom.
How to Care for an Azalea Plant
If a person receives an azalea plant as a gift, the first thing to do is remove it from any plastic or foil wrapping that may be decorating the pot. Next, water the plant thoroughly, allowing excess water to drain from the base of the plant, as azaleas do not like to have so-called ‘wet feet.’ You may want to feed an azalea houseplant following any instructions that may come with the plant.
Place the potted azalea in an area where it receives a little light, but not too much. Water the plant when it becomes moderately dry. Don’t let the soil around the plant become very dry or stay very wet.
If a person is planting an azalea directly into the garden, they will need to dig a hole as about deep and as wide as the plant. If one is going to add fertilizer, dry fertilizer to the removed soil, place the plant in the hole with several inches of root left out at the top, and begin to cover the roots of the plant. Then hill up dirt around the roots at the top of the plant and the base of the azalea. Once an azalea plant is established, it will likely not need further fertilization.
The Best Compost for Azaleas
Once azaleas are established, they need mulch, water and usually not much further care. However, every plant deserves a good start. Compost helps the plant begin their lives in a healthy manner, giving any new azalea a great start in life.
The best compost for azaleas consists of fertilizer and organic materials such as ground leaves, peat moss, ground up bark, or commercial compost added to the soil around the plant when it is placed in the garden. The composted soil should give the newly placed azalea plenty of drainage and nourish it, as well.
Caring for Azaleas When They Flower
Enjoying azalea flowers is really about all you need to do to care for azaleas when they flower. However, if you notice the leaves are becoming yellow around the veins, an application of azalea and rhododendron fertilizer may be in order. Outside of enjoying the flowers, it is important to notice when they are nearly done flowering, because this is the time to prune the plant.
Azalea plants should be pruned to a natural shape. The plant doesn’t lend itself to fancy shaping as do some shrubs and evergreens. The aim of pruning an azalea is to provide it with the right size and shape. Also, pruning an azalea right after the blooms fade helps more blooms develop.
Try Azaleas in Your Garden
There is an azalea variety for almost every type of garden. These sturdy plants are not hard to grow. Even the beginning gardener can have success growing azaleas in their home or garden.