Azaleas grace many home landscapes as a traditional evergreen addition to accent the home. These popular shrubs provide abundant flowers in late spring in a wide variety of colors. This plant normally thrives in the landscape with minimal care. Providing high-quality soil and the correct sunlight conditions, as well as monitoring the plant for signs of stress, ensures the best chance for a regular bloom cycle for azalea shrubs.
Choose a location that provides a mixture of sun and shade. Dappled sunlight under the canopy of a tree provides the correct mixture of light to help the azalea thrive. Avoid locations with dense shade and direct sunlight. Make sure the location features protection from the wind.
Cultivate the soil before initial planting. Use a shovel or tiller to stir up the dirt to a 12- to 18-inch depth to allow azalea roots to easily spread through the soil layers. Deep cultivation breaks up compacted soil layers and encourages excellent drainage at the planting site. Azaleas cannot tolerate standing water, so this extra effort provides optimal soil conditions.
Amend the soil with compost to increase organic content by 30 percent. This translates to a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost placed over the entire garden. Mix the organic material deeply into the cultivated soil to distribute the amendment evenly.
Take a soil sample to determine the pH of the soil and add the appropriate amendments. Azaleas prefer an acidic soil with a pH range between 4.5 and 5.5 based on recommendations from the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Home tests kits will provide a ballpark pH to help stabilize the soil before planting. Garden centers and state cooperative extension services also provide soil testing with increased accuracy.
Plant the azalea in the cultivated soil so the root ball lies 1 inch below the surface level of the planting site. Firm around the plant and water around the base of the main stem. Mulch around the azalea with a 2-inch layer of mulch, making sure to avoid mounding mulch against the plant trunk. Azaleas have tender roots that need the protection of a layer of mulch during the hot times of the year.
Prune right after flowering finishes to promote bushy growth and branching. Use pruning shears, not hedge clippers, to groom the azalea. Thin the plant by choosing older branches for removal. Make cuts at a 45-degree angle to a connecting branch to limit the wound size. Pruning rejuvenates the plant and often triggers blooms the following season on a plant that fails to produce flowers.
Fertilize with an acid plant fertilizer once each season. Water thoroughly after fertilizer application.
Monitor soil moisture conditions through every season. Water deeply around the base of the plant to ensure soil moisture to a level at least 12 inches into the soil.