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How to Grow and Care for Azalea Bushes

Azalea Bush

Genus: Rhododendron

An Azalea bush, is a popular flowering bush and foundation plant, with bright spring blooms.

Azaleas bushes are members of the Rhododendron family. The biggest difference between the Rhododendron plant and an Azalea plant, is the Azalea is a deciduous bush. It sheds its leaves in the fall. The Rhododendron plant is an evergreen.  In general, an Azalea bush is smaller in height, leaves, and blooms.

Most varieties of Azaleas grow two to eight feet tall. Fragrant blooms put on a show in the spring in white, lavender, bright orange, gold, red and purple colors.

Smaller in size, Azaleas are poplar potted plants as gifts for Easter and Mother's Day. After blooms die, transplant azaleas outdoors.

Propagation of Azalea:

Azaleas are grown from seeds, cuttings or grafting. Most home gardeners do not start Azaleas from seed. A plant grown from seed, takes 2-10 years to produce the first bloom. Most homeowners buy established Azalea plants while in full bloom from a garden store. Azalea plants are often kept indoors, or on a deck while the plants continue to bloom. then, after the flowers have died, they transplant them into a flower bed, or along a foundation.

Planting and transplanting Azaleas is best done in the early spring or early fall. When transplanting, replant bushes at the same level in the ground as they were in their original location. Smaller bushes transplant best.

How to Grow Azaleas:

Azaleas are acid loving plants. They grow best in light shade, and need protection from midday sun and winter sun. They prefer a moist, well drained soil with a pH of 5.5. Check the soil pH before planting, especially if planting along a foundation where soils tend to be more alkaline. Adjust the pH, as needed. Mix in plenty of inorganic matter, and well rotted manure.

Selecting a location is important. Azaleas can be harmed or killed by sustained winds. Select a location out of the direct sunlight, if possible. Protection from strong midday sun is important. Otherwise the leaves dry out and burn. Northern exposures are best. It is also important to provide protection from winds. A low lying area, or one protected by a building or a hedgerow is a good choice.

Azaleas prefer a moist soil. It is important to water the plants during extended dry spells, even in the fall.  

Using pine needles (acidic pH) as mulch works to help keep the soil moist, and maintain/add acidity to the soil. Roots are shallow, so mulching will help to keep the weeds down, without disturbing the root system.

Azalea Bushes

Pruning Azalea Plants:

Pruning or pinching back young Azalea plants helps to promote bushy growth. Pruning should be done early in the spring. But, any pruning may result in cutting off next years blooms. If you prune an established bush heavily, it may not bloom again for two to three years.  At the thought of losing next year's blooms, we recommend avoiding pruning established plants at all. Just let them grow naturally however they want.  


Winter Protection:

Azaleas are susceptible to winter burn, caused by frozen ground, wind and winter sun. As previously mentioned, selection of a location for your Azaleas will help to avoid wind or sun damage. Some varieties are not as tolerant to extreme cold. If you are in northern areas of the country, ask the garden store about the cold hardiness of the variety you are buying.

You can further protect your bushes by providing wind breaks, especially during winter months.

More on Winter Burn

Insects and Diseases Affecting Azalea:

Insect and disease problems are infrequent. Treat with insecticides or fungicides only as needed.

More Information:

Live Trees, bushes and Shrubs - hundreds of varieties

Also see: How to grow Rhododendrons

Garden trees, bushes and shrubs. Nature Hills.

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