How to Take Care of Azaleas
image by WilsonB: Flickr.com
Azaleas are perennial shrubs with short-lived flowers which bloom in the spring. They are strong plants which will grow for many years once established. Azalea plants typically reach about 5 to 7 feet in height, but can be controlled with pruning. They are prized for their attractive double-flowers which come in a variety of pastel colors, the most popular being pink and purple. In order to encourage the best blooms, well-drained acidic soil is required.
Plant azaleas in a partially shaded and cool area of the garden, such as under the protection of pine trees. They will not tolerate full sun, heavy shade or windy locations, and should not be planted under hardwood trees where they must compete for nutrients.
Spread a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch on the ground around azaleas. Begin spreading at least 6 inches away from the main stem and continue to about 6 feet in all directions around the shrub. This will ensure that the plant's bark stays dry while all the roots are protected by the mulch.
Water azalea plants twice per week during dry periods, but do not allow the soil to remain wet or soggy. Reduce watering to once per week in cool temperatures. Determine if watering is needed by pulling back the mulch and checking the first few inches of soil. Water deeply if the soil is dry, or check again in two to three days time.
Fertilize azaleas once per year in late spring after flowering, and only if necessary. They don't require as much supplemental fertilization as other shrubs, and should only be fed if growth is halted, or if leaves drop or turn light green to yellow in color. Apply a plant fertilizer formulated for use with azaleas according to the manufacturer's directions.
Prune azalea plants just after flowering is finished in the spring. Use pruning shears to remove dead, dying and diseased branches, and cut back any leggy growth as much as desired. Prune back the entire plant to within 12 inches of the ground for complete renewal in the case of extremely overgrown azaleas.