Carden-Harris Nursery
Azaleas & Japanese Maples

Planting and Care of Azaleas

Selecting a Site

Azaleas grow best with morning sun and afternoon shade, but not heavy shade. As a rule, azaleas do best when planted on the north or east sides of the house. If there is evergreen shade on the west or south sides of the house, they can be planted next to the house. Place plants where they are protected from strong winds, if possible.

Another absolute requirement for growing azaleas is that the site must be well drained. If the soil does not have good internal and surface drainage, it must be provided or azaleas will soon die. Drainage can be provided by planting in raised beds or by using an underground drain pipe to remove excess moisture.

Avoid locations where azaleas will have to compete with shallow rooted trees such as maples and elms. Pine trees provide good background for azaleas, and the filtered light created by the canopy is sufficient light for azaleas to do well.

Do not hoe around azaleas. They are very shallow-rooted and you could cut off enough roots to kill the plants.

Planting Time

Azaleas can be planted at any season of the year, if you give them good care during the establishment period. Most people buy plants during the spring in order to know the exact color they are getting. If planted at this time, make sure the plants are watered enough the first summer and fall. 

Preparing the Soil and Planting

Preparing the soil requires the addition of some kind of organic matter, usually 50% of the total mixture. Peat moss is the best thing to add. But you can use compost, pine needles, chopped oak leaves to make up the 50% peat moss part of the mixture.

Raised Beds

When planting azaleas in raised beds, make them out of landscape timbers, rocks, bricks, etc. The bed needs to be 8 to 10 inches high. Fill the bed with a 50-50 mix of good loose soil and peat moss.  

Below Ground Beds

Using a tiller, if available, till the soil to about a 12 inch depth, and remove 50% of the soil. Mix moist peat moss with the remaining soil. Put the plants on top of this mixture and fill in between plants with only peat moss, thoroughly wetted. Plant with the top of the root ball 2 inches above the bed surface then water the entire bed, and mulch heavily. 

Spacing of Plants in Bed

Spacing of plants in beds depends on the growing habits of the plant and their ultimate size. Plant from 3 to 6 feet apart.

Watering

Water newly planted azaleas every 2 or 3 days (if there is no rain) until their roots become established. Then reduce watering to once a week. Azaleas need to stay moist not wet or dry. Generally an inch of water a week is sufficient when it is hot and dry. Azaleas can never be left to fend for themselves as they are too shallow rooted to survive. Watering in the winter is sometimes necessary, if it is very cold and we have little rain or snow. Never over-water azaleas. Too much water is just as bad for azaleas as too little.

Water newly planted azaleas every 2 or 3 days (if there is no rain) until their roots become established. Then reduce watering to once a week. Azaleas need to stay moist not wet or dry. Generally an inch of water a week is sufficient when it is hot and dry. Azaleas can never be left to fend for themselves as they are too shallow rooted to survive. Watering in the winter is sometimes necessary, if it is very cold and we have little rain or snow. Never over-water azaleas. Too much water is just as bad for azaleas as too little.

Mulching

It is a very good idea to apply a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch, after planting azaleas. Do not use black plastic or limestone chips as mulch for azaleas. Pine bark, pine nuggets, pine needles, pecan hulls, chopped oak leaves, or cypress mulch make a good mulch. Mulching helps retain moisture around the roots, keeps weed growth down, and keeps warmth around the roots in the winter. Do not put mulch right next to the trunk of the plant, leave a one inch space before you start the mulch.

Pruning

Azaleas like to be pruned, and it keeps them bushy and full. They should only be trimmed after blooming and before the middle of July. After July you will be cutting of next year’s forming bloom buds. You can use hedge shears for large plants or hand shear for smaller plants. Overgrown or out-of-shape older plants can be cut back to the old stems to the height and shape you want.

Fertilizing

Azaleas are light feeders and require only a small amount of fertilizer to maintain good foliage color and flowers. We recommend using Osmocote 18-6-12 (8-9 month), a time-released fertilizer. You only have to apply it once a year in a very small quantity. Or use one of the combination insecticide-fertilizer products if you have lacebug problems. Follow label directions for fertilizer-sensitive plants and only use the recommended amount. Always water well after each application of fertilizer. If you use too much, you could easily burn up your plants. Do not use any kind of fresh manure on azaleas. It is much to strong a fertilizer. Do not fertilize azaleas after mid-July, and remember a little fertilizer goes a long way.

Insect Problems and Azaleas

The most prevalent insect in this area to bother azaleas is the lacebug. It is a small grayish-white bug that lives on the underneath side of the leaves and sucks the chlorophyll out of the leaf, leaving the leaf looking grayish-white. You cannot change the look of the leaf, but you can kill the lacebug. Any broad spectrum insecticide will work but you need to spray the underneath side of the leaf. A better solution is to use one of the following products:

Horticultural Spray Oil. This is as, if not more effective than other broad spectrum insecticides, and not as dangerous. It will kill the eggs of the lacebug.  This is as, if not more effective than other broad spectrum insecticides, and not as dangerous. It will kill the eggs of the lacebug.

Bayer Advanced Garden Tree and Shrub Insect Control can be used to kill lace bugs. You only have to apply it once a year.

Fertilome Tree & Shrub Systemic Insect Drench
can also be used to kill lace bugs. You only have to apply it once a year.

The Bayer and Fertilome products contain the same chemical, Imidacloprid. Both are available where insecticides are sold. They are also a soil drench not a spray.

 

Follow these directions and you should have happy, healthy azaleas.

 

 

 

 

 

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