Azalea Care: How to prune, plant, and take care of this flower

The azalea is a popular, hardy, shade-loving shrub that makes up part of the genus Rhododendron. Its colorful blooms are a beautiful,lush addition to gardens,landscaping and yards. Between early spring and early summer the azalea is an eye-catching mass of color that can adorn your yard for many years to come.

Planting Azaleas

The best time of year to plant azaleas is in early spring or fall. They prefer well drained soil that is loose and contains a large quantity of organic matter. If the soil contains a poor quantity of organic matter you can add some leaf mold or compost to improve the soil before planting. Instead of dropping your leaves at the curb or burning them, use them to feed your plants and build up the soil. Leaves can be a valuable and convenient resource for gardeners and a truly green alternative as well.

Poor drainage can cause harm to the shrub so be sure to plant them in well-drained soil. Heavy watering can also have adverse effects on the shrub. The azalea has a very fine, fibrous and shallow root system that can be damaged when water-logged. The damage can be done in a relatively short period of time so always take care when watering.

Planting azaleas in raised beds is always a good idea. The raised beds improve the drainage and help to protect the roots. This is an especially good idea if the spot you have chosen has questionable drainage.

Since azaleas prefer some shade, it’s always a good idea to have a shade-tree nearby. Just be sure that the tree has deep roots so that they don’t compete for space. You should also consider the tolerance the shade tree may or may not have for acid soil. Since azaleas grow well in acid soil, the shade tree should also be able to thrive or at least tolerate acidic soil.

Mulching is very important to the proper care and maintenance of azaleas. The mulch can help to protect the shallow root system of the plant from extremes in temperature. Acidic mulch like pine straw will provide multiple benefits to the azalea by making the surrounding soil more acidic and protecting the root system from temperature extremes.

Transplanting Azaleas

Azaleas may be transplanted with success during almost any season of the year but early fall, the start of their dormant period, is the optimum time. When transplanting, be sure to consider drainage and soil quality before choosing a location. Azaleas flourish in sunny and shady areas as well but a moderate amount of sunlight usually produces ideal growing conditions. That way the shrub is less susceptible to drought and also allows the soil to dry out during wetter seasons.

The roots of the azalea are very shallow which makes transplanting the shrub an easy task. Even the larger plants are fairly easy to transplant because the root ball is comparatively smaller than many plants of a similar size. They do very well during transplant as long as the root ball is of sufficient size.

The general rule is to dig the new hole approximately 2 feet deep and 1 foot wider each way than the spread of the root ball. The extra foot of loose soil will benefit the plant by allowing easier re-growth of the roots. Try to avoid compacting the soil after transplanting the azalea. As mentioned before, the goal should be to keep the soil loose so that you don’t inhibit its root growth.

Preventing Azalea Pests and Diseases

There are several major diseases and pests that can affect the health of azaleas. They can usually be avoided if the following tips are observed.

1. When purchasing plants, be sure they are healthy. Look for wilting branches, curled-up leaves, webbing on the underside of leaves or obvious fungus.
2. The azaleas should be planted in well-drained areas or raised beds to keep the roots well drained.
3. Choose a partly shady area when planting. Azaleas thrive in partial shade.
4. Check plants occasionally for pests, fungi, wilting branches
5. Prune dead or dying stems and remove any leaves that are curled-up or have webbing on the underside. Be sure to apply fungicides when necessary.

Azaleas are wonderful addition to any yard. Knowing the conditions the plant thrives in your key to success.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Stan Horst March 29, 2010 at 7:36 am

Growing up in northern Florida, our yard was covered with about 30 large azaleas. I well remember all the beautiful blooms in the springtime. Today in the Virginia, mountains I am proud of the few azaleas that I do have.

Did you know that it is easy to propagate azaleas? All you have to do is to take a lower branch of the azalea that you want to replicate, and place something heavy on it so a portion of the branch is in constant contact with the ground. The branch will root at that point. Once it is fairly well rooted, just dig it up and cut off the original branch to separate it from the parent shrub.

Stan Horst


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