Azaleas are colorful flowers that belong to the genus rhododendron. There are two types of azalea plants – deciduous and evergreen. Most azaleas flower during the spring, their blooms only lasting a few weeks in general. When maintained carefully, these beautiful plants can last for many decades in your garden.
- Azaleas must be planted in slightly acidic, well-drained soil. If the soil in your yard is sandy or has high clay content, you can modify the soil by adding bark, compost or other organic matter. The soil must ideally have a pH between 5.0 and 6.0.
- After you have modified the soil, it must rest for a few days.
- The planting spot must be in an open, shaded area.
- When you are ready to plant the azalea, prepare the planting spot by thoroughly tilling it.
- Dig out a hole that is not too deep. The top of the root must be slightly above the ground.
- Mix the dug out soil with compost. Backfill the soil and fix the plant firmly.
- Water thoroughly and add a couple of inches of organic mulch around the plant. This will help in moisture retention, and dissuade the growth of weeds.
Watering and Fertilizing
- Azaleas thrive in slightly moist soil. It is therefore important to regularly water these plants, especially during dry weather spells.
- Young plants require regular weekly watering till they are firmly established.
- Water the azaleas after the first frost, so that they can maintain themselves during the dormant winter. Mulch the soil thoroughly with hardwood leaves or pine bark to protect the plant and to conserve moisture during winter.
- Azaleas do not require too much fertilizer. Excessive fertilizers may prove harmful to these plants.
- Low to medium provision of an acidic fertilizer is beneficial to the growth of azaleas.
- Pruning is essential to ensure that the plant will bloom again the following year, and is best done in early spring..
- Remove dead stems, and also prune any branches that look dull.
- Never prune large portions of the plant in one stroke. Always prune regularly in small portions.
- Avoid leaving stubs, as these can die and cause decay and infection in the plant.
- Always use clean tools for pruning. If you cut dead or infected wood, make sure you disinfect the tool thoroughly before next use.
- Azaleas can be affected by insufficient nutrition, excessive fertilization, insects, and pests.
- Leaf and flower gall is a common problem in azaleas, where the plant develops abnormal green or whitish growths. This problem is caused by fungus, and is usually seen in moist climates. It can be prevented by controlling the moisture level. Once the plant is afflicted, the disease can be controlled by hand-picking and destroying the galls before they turn white in color.
- Petal blight is another common fungal infection, which causes azalea petals to become brown, and results in the shriveling of the plant. Use of special fungicide for azalea plants is recommended for controlling this infection.
- Azalea plants can also be affected by insects and bugs. Lace bugs and thrips can be controlled with insecticidal soap. Caterpillars can also feast on these plants, and they can be removed by hand.