How to Grow Azalea Plants and Azalea Care
Azalea is a part of the Rhododendron family and is a very popular garden plant. Its bright flowers will bring colour to almost any garden in spring.
The real difference between Rhododendron and Azalea is that Rhododendron is evergreen, whereas Azalea is deciduous and therefore sheds its leaves with the coming of autumn. Azalea is also smaller than the average Rhododendron, generally spoken of as a shrub or bush with smaller leaves and blooms.
The approximate height range for Azalea is between two and eight feet. The flowers exhibit a considerable range in colors and you can find specimens with white, red, purple, gold, orange, and lavender flowers.
Those species of Azalea that are smaller in size make popular presents when potted and are most often given as Mother’s day and Easter gifts.
If you receive a potted Azalea plant a gift remember that Azalea does best when growing outdoors and that if you transplant it from the pot into the ground you will achieve better results.
These plants can be propagated in a variety of ways. They can be grown from cuttings, by grafting, or from seeds. It is not recommended that you start this plant from seed as they can take between two to ten years before they first flower.
This does depend on the variety but generally Azalea grown from seed takes at least two years to bloom. If you want your Azalea to flower sooner than that it is preferable to buy plants rather than seeds. If you don’t mind waiting you can grow them from seed.
These plants can be kept indoors as ornamental plants during the period of flowering. When flowering has finished they can then be transplanted into a flower bed in your garden if you wish.
Be advised that the best time to transplant Azalea plants is early in spring or autumn. And remember that small Azalea bushes transplant more successfully than large ones.
Azalea Care Instructions
Azalea care is not difficult but a few tips can be useful.
Azalea has a preference for acidic soil types and will grow best in a partial shade or full shade position.
Azalea is a plant that must not be located where it will get hot from the sun during the middle of the day and its soil should be kept well drained and moist. Let me emphasize again that you must ensure that the soil is acidic for best results. This plant will not tolerate alkaline soils. Enrich the soil with manure.
Azalea Care – Start with Soil
Should be 1/4 soil, 1/2 organic matter (peat moss, shredded oak leaves, cedar or pine bark) and 1/4 clean sand. Add a slow release fertilizer into the mix. This is a good mixture for all acid loving shrubs.
By adding 3 inches of mulch around your shrubs twice a year their roots will be protected in Winter as well as Summer and you will be adding organic matter to the soil. The better quality the soil the less fertilizer required.
Heavy clay soil
Heavy clay soil can be remedied by making a raised bed, by 6 to 8 inches, using the soil mixture mentioned above. This will also give the shrubs soil good drainage.
Should the leaves turn yellow and the veins stay green, chances are you’ll need to add a little acid fertilizer to the soil. Over fertilizing is more of a problem than under fertilizing.
This wonderful shade loving plant comes in a variety colors as well as sizes from 8 to 80 inches tall.
Watering is essential during dry spell.
Azalea Care – Location
Location is the key to successfully culturing Azalea because these plants can be stunted, damaged, or even killed by regular winds or direct sunlight.
As I mentioned earlier, protecting them from sunlight in the middle of the day is crucial to prevent the leaves from drying or burning in strong sunlight.
Generally speaking Azalea is better suited to northern climates. Plant them in low areas or in areas protected from hot or cold wind and sun by buildings or hedges.
Pruning these plants is part of Azalea care, especially when they are young, it will help to promote growth and to make them bushier. However, you should prune only if you really want to. Although pruning Azalea makes them bushy, any such procedure carries with it the risk of destroying the next year’s blooms. If you choose to prune established plants, it is best carried out in early spring.
As must be obvious by now, Azalea is sensitive to wind and cold, with some varieties even more sensitive to extreme cold than others. If you live in a severe northern climate choose a variety that is resistant to cold.