Caring for Azaleas: Your "How to Grow Azaleas" Guide
This entry was posted on January 2, 2015.
Azalea Plant Requirements
When choosing a spot for your azalea it is critical that you take into consideration the specific needs of your azalea variety. Different varieties have different needs and many factors can affect the way your azaleas grow and flower. Don’t let this intimidate you,because azaleas are very hardy and adaptable plants.
Azalea Sunlight Requirements
Most azaleas prefer partial sun and partial shade. It is best to plant them in an area that receives morning sun and afternoon shade or an area that receives filtered sunlight throughout the day. Although this is their preference, they are still very adaptable plants and will grow in a variety of sunlight conditions. Many azalea varieties can handle more sunlight if they are properly watered. Azaleas that are grown in full sun will have shorter stems and more blooms; however these blooms will not last long. Azaleas grown in full shade will have longer stems and fewer blooms, but the blooms will last longer.
Azalea Soil Requirements
All azaleas require the same soil. These shrubs thrive in acidic well-drained soil. If you are unsure about the PH level of your soil, you can submit a soil sample through your County Extension Service to have the PH levels and soil nutrients evaluated for little to no cost. To test the drainage of your soil, dig a hole and fill it with water. If the water drains out in a couple of hours, you have good soil drainage. If the water is still sitting in the hole after 24 hours, you have poor soil drainage. To help with poor drainage, you can either build a raised bed or mix additional components into the soil to allow for better drainage. Azalea roots need access to both oxygen and moisture. In wet soil, the roots will grow close to the surface to get oxygen. In dry soil, roots will penetrate deeper into the soil in search of water.
Azaleas need about 1 inch of rainfall a week. If this need is not met, supplemental watering maybe required. Watch your plant for any dryness or drooping leaves. This sign lets us know to water your azalea. Watering it slow and deeply will restore the plant in a few hours.
Unpack all of your plants right away! Look for the perfect location. Make sure you are planting in the correct light conditions.
Dig a hole twice the width of the root ball. Position your plant in the hole. Make sure the top of the root ball is slightly higher than the original grade of the bed. Also check to make sure it is straight from all sides.
Mix up the potting soil and existing soil removed from the hole. Start by back-filling soil around the root ball. Carefully pack in the soil to remove any air pockets. Water plant thoroughly again until the soil will not hold any more water. This will ensure that your new plant will be a success.
Finish up by mulching around your new plant. Apply 2” of mulch around the plant and plant bed. Mulch will help keep the soil moist and keep weeds out.
Keep watered with a hose every 2-3 days for 2 weeks. This is critical to plant survival. The third week, begin to water as needed depending on the weather. Always check by placing your finger under the mulch to see if the soil is moist.
Fertilizer provides a huge benefit to azaleas. It increases bloom size, provides intense bloom color, plants will double size, and your azaleas will remain healthy. There are so many fertilizers on the market today, but at The Planting Tree we have a special blend with minor nutrients to keep your azaleas constantly growing. For azaleas it is best to apply fertilizer right after they bloom. Apply 2 teaspoons per gallon size plant.
Azaleas have natural shallow root systems, which makes them susceptible to extreme changes in temperature. Mulch can help insulate the soil, lock in moisture, and protect the root systems from extreme temperature changes. Azaleas prefer acidic soil, so it is best to use pine straw as a mulch. However you can use any type of mulch you desire.
Azaleas should be pruned immediately after they bloom. This should be around June or July. Azaleas are pruned during this time period because during the late summer and fall, they start to produce new buds. Trimming these shrubs any later that June or July will bring the risk of trimming off the next years flowers.Start by trimming off any dead or damaged limbs. This ensures that the plant remains healthy and will not be susceptible to disease and insects. Once this is all pruned out-of-the-way, you can start trimming out the long and dangling limbs that are produced through the top of the bush.If your azalea starts to get too big for their surroundings, you can drastically cut them back to be about 1 ft. tall plants. Once they are cut back, give them a slow release fertilizer and lots of water. The following spring, your shrubs will be covered in new growth. Trim out weak sprouts and leave about 2-3 shoots per stump.
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