Plant and Establish Azaleas in Your Yard

 Azaleas are shrubs that bloom in the spring. They come in many varieties and colors are the same genus as rhododendrons. The difference between the 2 plants is that the azalea can be deciduous or evergreen while rhododendrons are only evergreens. 

Step 1: Picking the Right Azalea

Choose a variety of azalea that grows best in your area. Pick a healthy, sturdy, well branched plant. 

Step 2: The Right Spot for Growing Azaleas

Azaleas like to grow in shady spots with filtered light. The perfect companion tree for azaleas is the red oak. Red oaks prefer acidic soil like azaleas. The tree’s roots grow deep while azaleas have shallow roots, so there isn’t competition for water and nutrients. 

Step 3: Proper Soil for Azaleas

Azaleas need acidic soil to grow and flourish. Test the soil before planting azaleas to see if the soil contains the proper pH level. The soil pH level should be about 5.5. Pine bark and decomposing sawdust are both acidic making them good materials to enrich the soil.

Soil that drains well is also a necessity for azaleas. Try a raised garden to promote good water drainage. 

Step 4: When to Plant Azaleas

Azaleas can be planted any time of year. Some people like to plant them in the spring so they don’t have to wait to see the azalea bloom. If you do plant azaleas in the spring they have to be keep watered so their shallow roots don’t dry out in the summer. The fall is the ideal time of year to plant azaleas. By planting in the fall the azalea is allowed time to establish healthy roots. 

Step 5: Preparing the Azalea for Planting

If your azalea is root bound make a few slices from the top of the root ball to the bottom. The cuts should be about ¼-inch deep. These cuts allow the compacted roots to grow out and water to penetrate the root ball. Remove any wire, string or plastic that is around the root ball. You can keep burlap on as long as it is pulled down at least 6 to 8 inches from the base of the plant. 

Step 6: Planting the Azalea

Dig a hole bigger than the root ball. The width of the hole should be 2 to 3 times bigger than the span of the azaleas branches when it grows to maturity. The tag on the azalea should tell you the correct width to dig. Loosen and pack the soil in place at the bottom of the hole to prevent the plant from sinking below the top of the hole when planted. Place the azalea in the hole and fill it in with dirt. Firmly pat the soil around the base of the azalea and water. 

Step 7: Mulching Azaleas

Apply 2 to 2 inches of organic mulch or compost to keep moisture in the soil and control weeds. 

Step 8: Fertilizing Azaleas

Do not fertilize the azalea after planting it needs time to get established. Most azaleas don’t need a lot of fertilizer, but if your azalea appears to not grow or foliage starts to yellow and fall off you can use a slow release fertilizer. Recommended fertilizers for azaleas are a 12-4-8 or 15-5-15 mix or use one that specifically is made for azaleas. Apply fertilizers to the root zone of the azalea. The root zone for azaleas can be about 6 feet in diameter.