For some avid gardeners in the south, azaleas are at the top of the must-have plant list. With thousands of types, azaleas are available in extensive varieties and possibilities when it comes to size, shape and color. You can choose from varying features like size, bloom time, color and hardiness — to name just a few!
While each type’s characteristics might be different, all azalea plants need acidic, well-drained soil. Plus, avoid planting in heavy clay to ward off root rot, as well as soil that lacks iron. In Houston, it’s recommended azaleas be planted in raised beds with the root ball slightly above the soil level. Azaleas should also be fertilized with a controlled-release, acid-forming fertilizer like cottonseed meal, commercial azalea food or equivalent, after the blooms fade.
It’s also important to remember that different species of azaleas have varying sun tolerances — most preferring partial or filtered shade through an overhead tree.
Although it can seem like there are a lot of guidelines to planting, establishing and maintaining azaleas, keep these general tips in mind to keep your azaleas bright and healthy.
- If needed during blooming season, you can lightly prune and apply an organic fertilizer or equivalent.
- After your plants bloom, prune and fertilize them no later than June. Use a controlled-release, acid-forming fertilizer like cottonseed meal, commercial azalea food or equivalent.
- Once the blooms fade in the spring, apply a light layer of mulch to help beds retain moisture.
- Azaleas require moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soils, so if you notice pale or yellow leaves, add a soil acidifier to revive them.
- Due to their shallow root system, you’ll need to water these plants during periods of drought.