A brilliant floral display decorates many home landscapes in the spring. Homeowners use azaleas as a beautiful ornamental addition to the property. Healthy plants can produce a solid wall of flowers around a home foundation or fence. The stunning blooms of the azalea last for a short time. Maintain plant health after flowering to ensure that next year's growth produces a repeat floral display.
Examine the location of the azaleas to determine if growing conditions have changed. Azaleas prefer partial shade with limited morning sun exposure. Maturing landscapes can create deep shade that will affect blooming ability. Check for differences caused by tree canopies, new buildings or the removal of neighboring shrubs. The best time to transplant azaleas is after the blooming period. Ensure that existing plants aren't exposed to afternoon sun or wind at any time of the year.
Azaleas grow best in soils with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. If you notice reduced flowering, take soil samples around the plants. The addition of the missing nutrients will boost the health of the plant and increase flower production the following year. Amending soil immediately after flowering allows plenty of time during the growing season for the plant to use the newly applied nutrients.
A properly placed azalea will need little pruning over the course of a long life. Most gardeners plant azaleas as foundation plants. Azaleas become overgrown in limited space and require regular containment pruning. Clip back azaleas only after the blooming period finishes and limit pruning to dead foliage. Azaleas don't benefit from this quick pruning method using hedge clippers. This plant looks much better as an ornamental landscape accent when allowed to retain natural shape. Thin the interior of the azalea to remove old wood to the nearest adjoining branch. Pick off individual dead blooms to neaten the appearance of the plant after blooming.
Flower production takes a great deal of energy. Azaleas benefit from regular watering from rain or the garden hose. Check for soil moisture by pressing a trowel into the soil. If the soil is dry to a 6-inch depth, water around the base of each plant. Deep watering promotes healthy root growth and helps the plant conserve water. After flowering, conserve additional moisture in the soil by placing a 2- to 3-inch mulch layer around the azaleas to reduce weeds and protect the roots from temperature changes.
Apply special azalea fertilizer after blooms die and after springtime pruning. These fertilizers are designed to meet the needs of these hardy evergreens without adjusting soil pH. Fertilize again a month later and once more at mid-summer. Avoid fertilizing in late summer or fall to limit a potential growth spurt that may cause winter damage to the plant.
Some azaleas simply don't thrive in their current location and require transplant. Always move plants immediately after blooming finishes to allow plenty of acclimation time during the longest period of the growing season. Dig around the dripline (leaf canopy edge) of the azalea and work inward to free the shrub from the soil. Snapping off roots can permanently damage the shrub.