Azaleas are popular flowering shrubs that are commonly grown in temperate or mild-winter regions and are part of the Rhododendron genus. Azaleas come in a wide range of cultivated varieties, some of which are evergreen and others that are deciduous. Azalea shrubs have funnel-shaped flowers that can be shades of white, pink, purple or reddish and bloom in early spring. Azaleas range in size among the different species and varieties, but most don't grow larger than 10 feet tall and wide.
Choose a planting location for your azaleas that's in partial to moderate shade and not in full, direct sunlight or deep shade. Azaleas prefer well-draining, acidic soils.
Plant your azaleas in spring or fall. Prepare the soil at the planting site by removing all grasses, weeds and other debris and then loosening the soil to a depth of about 12 inches.
Dig a planting hole for your azalea that is the same depth as and twice the width of the root ball. Mix into the displaced soil some organic compost, if the soil is sandy or contains large amounts of clay.
Remove the azalea from the nursery container carefully, and inspect the plant to look for any circling roots around the outside of the root ball. If you see these circling roots, make three to four cuts with a sharp knife that are equally spaced and ¼ inch deep from the top of the root ball's soil mass to the bottom.
Set the azalea's root ball into the planting hole, ensuring that the top of the root ball is level with or slightly higher than the ground surface. Backill the planting hole with the displaced soil.
Tamp down the soil around the roots, and water the newly planted azalea deeply and thoroughly to soak the soil around the entire root ball. Ensure that the soil settles around the roots and there are no air pockets.
Spread a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of organic mulch around the newly planted azaleas to cover the root area. Keep the mulch about 1 or 2 inches away from the main stem to prevent rot.
Caring for Azaleas
Water your azaleas deeply and thoroughly to wet the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches whenever the soil begins to look dry throughout the first spring, summer and early fall. You can test the soil moisture by checking the top 2 to 3 inches of soil to determine whether it feels dry to the touch.
Feed your azaleas once each year in spring or in early fall with a slow-release fertilizer labeled for shrubs or acid-loving plants. Apply up to 2 pounds of a 12-4-8 or 15-5-15 NPK formula fertilizer, spreading the fertilizer granules on the ground over the root area and watering thoroughly.
Prune your azaleas once each year in spring, right after the flowers finish blooming. Cut all crowded, diseased, damaged or "leggy" branches back to the main trunk of the azalea.
Rejuvenate old, overgrown azaleas by cutting back the entire plant to about 6 to 12 inches from ground level. Do this in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. Then, prune back the tips of the new shoots when they grow to about 6 to 12 inches long, and thin out any shoots that grow from the old stem.
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Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.