Growing Beautiful Azaleas

    • Broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and peas grow best in the spring and don’t mind a little frost. Set out plants now and grow your own!
    • Potatoes like to grow in the cool weather of spring. Plant them as soon as possible.
    • Summer flower bulbs can be planted now. Choose from gladiolus, dahlias, begonias, lilies and more.
    • Plant artichokes now. Fill a hole with one part humus and two parts soil and set out plants in full or part sun.
    • Last call for bare root fruit trees. This is the most economical way to plant an orchard, so choose your trees now.

Growing Beautiful Azaleas

Some of our loveliest spring flowers bloom on compact plants called azaleas. These garden gems are evergreen and easy to grow given the right conditions. They cover themselves with beautiful flowers each spring and live for many years in gardens or in containers.

Azaleas should receive partial shade, or filtered shade all day. Plant them with rhododendrons, pieris, Japanese snowball or Japanese maples for a harmonious garden design.

Azaleas are fairly hardy plants, however they have a reputation for being difficult to grow. Most azalea deaths occur from faulty planting. In their native habitats they are found growing in loose, porous soils. So it is best to plant azaleas in a well-drained site with cool, moist, acidic soil.

The planting hole should be 18 to 24 inches wide but only as deep as the root ball. Use peat moss, planting mix, or ground bark to amend the soil up to 50%. Plant the azalea higher than the surrounding ground level and build up to the sides with the soil mixture. One of the quickest ways to kill an azalea is to bury the plant by putting soil on top of the root ball. The surface of the root ball should still be showing when you are done planting.

Too much fertilizer will also kill an azalea. These plants have tender fibrous roots which are easily burned by high-nitrogen fertilizers. Use a non- burning organic fertilizer like cottonseed meal or a chemical fertilizer labeled for azaleas once a month in April, May and June. Then switch to a 0-10-10 fertilizer for the months of July, August and September.

Azaleas are often the victims of overwatering. Water the plants as you would any other plant to get them established, and then check the soil to keep it moist but not soggy wet. If kept too wet, or grown in poorly drained soils, azaleas can be killed by root rot fungi. The leaves will wilt and then dry up on the plant.

Not all azaleas are hardy to the cold temperatures in our area, but there are varieties that can take temperatures down to 5°F. Look for names like Kurume and Satsuki to be sure you are buying a cold-hardy plant. Belgian Indicas and Southern Indicas will grow where temperatures don’t fall below 20°F. Below that the bark will split and the plants will die.

Kurume azaleas have very dense foliage and small flowers that completely cover the plants in spring. They come in all shades of red, pink, lavender, purple and white. Satsuki azaleas have a looser form and large flowers in white, pink or red that are sometimes striped or have multiple colors on one plant.

With a carefully chosen plant and proper planting and care, azaleas will live for many years, in the landscape or in containers, showing off their colorful flowers each spring.

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