Azaleas are small, shade tolerant flowering shrubs belonging to the Rhododendron genus.
Their long-lasting blooms appear in the springtime and provide welcome color in shady gardens.
Success with Azaleas is very dependent upon proper planting techniques.
In this article, we share information to help you plant your Azaleas right. Read on to learn more.
Location, Location, Location!
One of the first things you should consider when planting Rhododendrons and Azaleas is a location.
Azalea bushes like to be in a position where they can receive sun in the morning and shade or filtered light in the afternoon.
Putting an Azalea in a position where it will receive full sun all day will cause stress.
A stressed plant is far more susceptible to pests and diseases.
Soil Preparation Is Very Important
Another thing you should consider when placing your Azalea is the type of soil present in your chosen setting.
Azaleas like acidic, well-draining soil.
Take the time to test the soil pH before planting your Azalea bush.
Azaleas thrive in acidic soil with a pH of around 4.5 to 5.5.
If the pH level is higher than 6.0, you must amend the soil using aluminum sulfate or agricultural sulfur.
Follow packaging instructions carefully.
Azaleas also like soil made up of a great deal of organic matter.
If you find your soil is heavy and made up of a great deal of compacted clay, you should amend it with organic matter such as:
- Pine Leaf Compost
- Oak Leaf Compost
- Expanded Clay
- Canadian Peat
A ratio of 50% native soil and 50% amendments is usually about right.
Leave Ample Room for Growth & Air Circulation
Once you’ve chosen your setting and made sure your soil is correct, begin planting your Azalea bushes.
Be sure to leave plenty of space around each bush to allow for growth and for good air circulation.
The amount of space necessary varies depending upon the type of Azalea you’ve chosen to grow.
Be sure to read the instructions coming with your Azalea bush carefully to determine just the right amount of space.
7 Steps to Azalea Success
When you’re ready to actually plant, follow these steps:
#1 – Keeping the plants in their pots, set them in their potential locations.
Look at them to be sure they have plenty of space, and they are aesthetically pleasing.
#2 – Dig planting holes as deep as the plant root ball and twice as wide.
Mix the soil you have dug out of the hole with an appropriate amendment such as a professional garden soil especially prepared for shrubs and trees and/or amendments such as those listed above.
Go for a 50-50 mix.
#3 – Remove your plant from its pot and rough up the surface of the ball of roots as needed to encourage good root growth.
#4 – Place the plant in the prepared planting hole.
Make sure the surface of the rootball is slightly higher than the soil line.
#5 – Backfill around the roots using the 50-50 mixture of native soil and amendments.
Mound the soil around the slightly elevated root ball.
This method will ensure the plants’ roots do not become waterlogged and subject to fungal infection.
#6 – Give your Azalea bush a deep, thorough watering.
#7 – Mulch of oak leaves around the plants’ roots to help conserve moisture.
Be careful not to allow the mulch to touch the plants’ stems.
The best mulch to use is an oak leaf or pine leaf.
Watering Azaleas for Success
During the first couple of months, give your Azalea bushes a deep, thorough soaking two or three times weekly.
In the third and fourth months, water deeply one time weekly.
When your Azalea bushes have survived their first growing season, they may be able to thrive on natural rain only.
If two weeks pass with no rain, water your Azalea bushes deeply and thoroughly.
Feeding Azaleas for Success
Give your Azalea bushes their first feeding after a month has passed.
Use a fertilizer specially formulated for acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons, camellias, and Azaleas. More on Azalea fertilizer.
In addition to the basic nutrients usually found in plant foods, look for:
These micronutrients are essential to successful Azalea growth.
Keep the Soil Acidic
Every year in the springtime, check the soil’s pH level to make certain it stays acidic enough to keep your Azaleas happy.
Apply agricultural sulfur and/or use acid reacting fertilizers (e.g., ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate) to help keep the soil’s pH level low.
More on making soil acidic.
As with all tasks and gardening, there’s more than one way to plant an Azalea.
Here are a couple of slightly different examples.
Both will work well.
Choose the method working best for your setting, your resources, and your preferences.