Instructions for Planting and Growing Azaleas
- 1). Plant the azalea garden on a site sloping to the north or east to protect it from south and west winds and rapid temperature changes in fall or spring. Protection from the wind is very important. Do not place the planting site within 15 feet of shallow-rooted trees such as maple, ash or elm. The roots of these trees will invade the prepared soil of the azaleas and deprive them of moisture and nutrition.
- 2). Ensure sunlight filtered through trees or bushes is available. Full sunlight in the morning is acceptable as long as partial shade is available in the afternoon. Plant shrubs or build a sheltering fence or screen to provide adequate shade after 1 p.m.
- 3). Set plants in sandy loam soil amended with organic matter such as leaf mold, coarse sand and pine bark. Dig the planting site 18 inches deep and at least 30 inches wide. Use the topsoil and soil amendments to raise the bed at least 4 inches above the rest of the garden. Azalea's roots are very delicate and cannot develop in clay or heavy soil. The soil must be acidic for the azaleas to grow. Test the soil by contacting the county extension agent and obtaining a soil test kit.
- 4). Make certain the drainage of the planting site is excellent. The thin, delicate roots of the azaleas are very susceptible to too much water exposure. Test the planting site by digging a hole 6 inches deep and filling it with water. Allow four hours for the hole to completely drain. If the hole does not drain, build a raised bed at least 1 foot high or provide another type of drainage.
- 5). Space out groups of azaleas, rather than individual plants, 3 to 4 feet apart and 18 inches from the edge of the planting area. Plant azaleas in early spring and late fall.
- 6). Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball but no deeper. Set the root ball 2 inches higher than the surrounding planting site. Soak the newly planted root ball thoroughly after planting.
- 7). Conserve moisture, stifle weed growth and minimize winter damage by heavy mulching year-round with pine needles or sphagnum peat moss at least 2 inches deep.
- 8). Fertilize with a product, available from the garden center, for acid-loving plants by applying it to the surface before mulching.
- 9). Irrigate plants twice weekly to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Do not water in September in order to harden the plants for winter. Continue to water until Thanksgiving if the fall has been excessively dry.
Prune azaleas lightly, primarily to improve form. Cut lighter branches back to the larger branch to encourage new growth. Hard pruning is not usually necessary with an azalea. Cut back stems after they bloom to improve flowering for next year.