Azaleas, scientifically speaking are classified into the genus Rhododendron and fall into several groups. The most popular groups for the Central Alabama region include Glen Dale's, Indica, Kurumes, and Satsuki Hybrids. Each group displays different characteristics regarding leaf shape and size, bloom size and type, plant size and perhaps most importantly bloom time. Azaleas traditionally have been grouped based on bloom time. Early season groups are generally Kurumes, midseason includes the Indicas and Glen Dales, while the late season bloomers are the Satsuki's. Bloom time though dominated early by temperatures traditionally begins in March and usually tapers off by mid to late June. One group of Azaleas rapidly growing in popularity are the repeat blooming types found in the Encore Group. Encores provide for the longest Bloom time of any group of Azaleas. This group is covered extensively thru our Encore Link.
WHEN TO PLANT
Azaleas can be planted virtually anytime of the year, although most gardeners seem to prefer planting in early to mid spring during the azalea's peak blooming period. The prime time for Azalea plantings and for that matter most any other plant is late Fall and Winter. During this time generally rainfall is plentiful and temperatures are mild. Regardless of when you choose to plant, Azaleas need an adequate supply of moisture and high fertility for the first full growing season.
HOW TO PLANT
Azaleas are considered to be shallow rooted plants. These plants produce thousands of fibrous roots that are generally concentrated in the top 12" of soil. When planting, dig a hole that is at least twice as wide as the root ball, and at least one and a half times as deep. The soil that is removed from the hole should be amended by at least 50% by volume, with Blooming Colors selection of mushroom compost (33%), soil conditioning pine bark (33%), and organic humus (33%). Azaleas prefer ACIDIC, WELL DRAINED SOIL CONDITIONS, and this combination will get your young plantings off to an excellent start. In addition to the soil conditioners an application of Fertilome Brand Root Stimulator should also be applied after your planting is complete. Simply water in your plant using a solution of root stimulator mixed at the recommended rate. This provides a new plant with all the minor elements and nutrients to promote fast root growth. After planting and root stimulation add a 2" layer of mulch to help preserve moisture and build organic matter.
WHERE TO PLANT
Shade or Sun Azaleas are versatile plants for most any planting situation. An Azaleas natural habitat is underneath the canopies of tall trees. In the south this usually means plantings massed under maturing pine trees. Ironically, most Azaleas sold in the South are actually grown under full sun conditions utilizing overhead irrigation. We have seen gardeners plant Azaleas in full sun conditions with good luck, but a couple of important considerations should be noted. When planting in full sun, because of the need for extra water, it is imperative that Azaleas be planted in well drained soil. If good drainage does not naturally exist this condition must be created for maximum success. Also, a good supply of water to maintain moist but not wet soil conditions will ensure optimum growth. Finally fertility levels must remain high, as Azaleas are heavy feeders. Proper fertility will promote good foliage color and leaf retention especially going into winter conditions, as well as reduce pest pressure.
Blooming Colors recommends fertilizing with Osmocote or Nutricote brand fertilizers. These fertilizers are slow release and provide fertility over several months. Apply fertilizer in March and then again in early September. Supplemental fertilizers such as Aluminum Sulphate or Iron should be applied to help improve acidic soil conditions and resolve chlorotic (yellowing of leaves) leaves. Optimum soil pH ( a measure of soil acidity) for Azaleas is 5.5 to 6.0.
Azalea pruning usually fall in line with an old rule of thumb known as the "May Rule". It goes like this: Plants that bloom before May are pruned after they bloom while plants blooming after May should be pruned before blooming. This rule of thumb is a bit ambiguous for Azaleas that bloom in May or Encore Azaleas. Azaleas set buds this year for blooms next year. Pruning before Azaleas bloom can result in the removal of this years bloom buds.
While Azaleas by themselves offer beautiful additions to many garden design elements, there are many companion plants that enhance the Azaleas beauty. These include Pieris, Native Rhododendrons, Hostas, Hardy Ferns, and Hydrangeas just to name a few. Blooming Colors offers Lee County's largest selection of Azalea varieties and their companion plants. Stop in today for some expert help with your selection.