Azaleas and Rhododendrons
Azaleas are one of the most popular landscape shrubs grown in zones seven to nine. Growers look forward to the showy burst of blooms in early spring, and the shrub itself, with its dark green leaves, looks great all summer.
Azaleas are members of the Rhododendron family. In common usage, the term "rhododendron" refers to the plants with larger, leathery leaves while "azalea" refers to those with smaller, thinner leaves. The care and requirements are the same for both plants.
Hundreds of varieties of rhododendrons are available, and choosing varieties that suit the environment is a primary concern. Trying to grow a poorly adapted variety will result in poor results. For help in choosing a variety that is right for your location, visit a local nursery or contact your agricultural extension service.
Plants are usually purchased in the spring in one of these forms:
Take extra care when planting balled-and-burlapped rhododendrons as they are more susceptible to transplant shock.
Container grown plants are sometimes rootbound, with a mass of roots on the outside of the soil ball. If you note this when removing the plant from the container, make four or five ¼-inch deep cuts from the top to the bottom of the soil mass with a sharp knife. Space the cuts evenly. This will encourage root growth outside the root ball and allow better water penetration.
Choose plants that are sturdy and well-branched. Weak, spindling plants may indicate a poor root system. The best size for planting is 16 to 18 inches. Smaller plants are easily injured by harsh winter weather.