The azalea is a flowering shrub used for borders, foundation plantings, backgrounds and containers. Related to the rhododendron, this perennial shrub is noted for its colorful masses of flowers. From dwarf varieties to towering azaleas over 6 feet tall, the azalea is popular for its colorful flowers. Helping the azalea reach full bloom takes proper planting and routine care.
Plant the azalea in well-drained soil. Avoid water-logged roots or standing water around the plant. For top blooms, the plant should dry out between watering. Water at the base. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are preferred as sprinkling wets foliage and may cause bloom-killing disease. The azalea is drought tolerant once established and prefers filtered to full sun. When the azalea has too much shade, foliage turns yellow and flower buds drop off.
Avoid over-fertilizing. Apply a light sprinkling of time-release pellet fertilizer for acid-loving plants around the outside drip-line of the plant in early spring or summer. Too much fertilizer causes overdevelopment of foliage and does not encourage blooming. Watch for fungus disease. Petal blight appears as small white spots on the flower and spreads as a brown patch. Other fungus disease makes leaves appear burned or brown. Apply fungicide according to package directions. Begin at the first signs of disease and continue through summer.
Prune the azalea right after blooming. Flower buds and blooms develop on new wood. When the plant is pruned late in dormancy or early the following spring, the wood does not grow enough to produce the branching flower buds.
Protect the azalea from weather extremes. Winter freezing may kill the young wood need for new foliage and blooms. Mulch around the plant and protect it from winter storms with a blanket or barrier. Frost also kills young flower buds so that the plant loses a bloom season.
Choose new varieties such as the Encore Azalea. This type of evergreen azalea blooms twice during the growing season. It is specifically bred for profuse blooming and in some zones blooms as late as December.