Azaleas are a group of flowering shrubs that add a dramatic flair to a flower garden. Depending on the variety, azaleas can be deciduous or evergreen, but all varieties produce attractive flowers in a variety of colors. Like rhododendrons, azaleas need lots of filtered light, regular moisture and protection from cold weather and wind. Before planting azaleas, take the time to properly prepare the planting sites in the fall so they will be ready for planting the azaleas in the spring.
Find a good planting site for the azaleas. Ideally the site should provide some dappled sunlight in the afternoon, but no morning sun during the winter. The site should also give adequate protection for wind, such as along the north or east side of a structure.
Measure out a 30-inch-wide planting bed for each azalea you intend to plant. Each section needs to be about 3 to 4 feet apart. Dig out the soil in each planting bed to a depth of approximately 18 inches.
Mix into the soil you removed from the planting bed an equal amount of decomposed leaves, finely ground pine bark or sphagnum peat moss. Mix the ingredients together using a spade or a fork, then place it back into the planting bed.
Dig a planting hole for each of the azaleas that is twice the width of their containers but no deeper. Invert the azalea and while keeping a hand on the top of the root system, tap along its rim using a mallet or a stout block of wood. Once the pot starts to loosen, gently slide it off the root system.
Plant the azalea into a planting hole. The top of its root system should be sitting about 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the topsoil.
Scoop soil in around the azalea until the hole is about two-thirds full. Gently pack the soil down using your hands. Fill the rest of the hole full with soil.
Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of pine bark or hardwood mulch around each azalea keeping the mulch about 2 to 3 inches away from the trunk. Replace mulch around the azaleas as often as needed. Mulch is important to grow azaleas because it helps keep weeds down and moisture in.
Water each azalea thoroughly. During their growing season, provide water to each of the azaleas at the equivalent of 1 inch of water every week, if there is no other form of moisture, such as rainfall.
Fertilize the azaleas beginning in May of each year. Use a 6-10-4 fertilizer (or similar) made for acid-loving plants. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations on spread rate. Stop fertilizing after July.