Azalea shrubs are a member of the Rhododendron family. The plant is available in both evergreen and deciduous types and hardy in USDA growing zones 4 through 9. Due to the range of cold hardiness, the growing requirements should be inspected before purchase to make sure the plant will grow properly in your area. It is best to buy an azalea plant at a local nursery as it will offer varieties that grow best in that area.
Choose an azalea variety based on the USDA growing zone recommendation listed for the plant. The USDA growing zone tells you if a plant will grow and winter in your location.
Select a planting location that offers moderate sunlight or afternoon shade. A plant that receives full sun will be compact and produce fewer blooms.
Test the soil pH with a home test kit. Azalea plants prefer an acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0. Add ground rock sulfur to the soil to lower the pH number. Let the soil rest for two weeks before planting the azalea.
Dig a hole that is the same depth as the container the azalea came in and 2 feet wider. Mix the dug soil with an even amount of quality topsoil. Remove the plant from the container and gently loosen the roots from the ball. Place the plant in the hole, making sure it is not set deeper than it was in the container. Fill the hole with the amended soil and gently pack in place.
Water the azalea plant well after planting to stimulate root growth. Continue to water the plant to keep the soil moist during the growing season. An infrequent heavy water application is better than many light sprinklings of water. Give the plant a heavy water application after the first hard frost in the fall. Do not allow standing water around the plant as this will promote root rot.
Apply 1 inch of mulch around the plant's root ball diameter to retain moisture and prevent weed growth. Pine bark or wood chip mulch is preferred.
Fertilize azalea plants in the spring with a general purpose fertilizer. Do not fertilize the plants after July 1 to prevent winter death to new growth.
Prune azalea plants after they bloom to shorten and remove the long, slender stems that do not have side shoots and remove dead branch growth.