Azaleas are a beautiful evergreen shrub which provide our Carolina gardens with a short but intense burst of color in the spring. A key to having success with Azaleas especially is to plant them properly and in the right soil. Azaleas prefer a more acidic soil pH, with a good amount of peat moss and pine mulch worked into the soil. They’ll grow best in straight peat moss in fact, which provides low pH levels and good drainage.
After the blooms are done, which is typically late May to early June, a good time for two important practices to help them to remain healthy.
- Pruning. Especially on older plants, prune a few weeks after the blooms are gone. Don’t wait until late in the summer, as the buds for next year will have been set, and you’ll be removing those, leading to poor flowering next spring. Use good, sharp hand shears to prune off individual stems that are too long, or running into other plants. Some azaleas can become quite large, so major pruning may be needed on these if they become too large. They’ll recover just fine.
- Fertilization. Again, after the blooms are done, it’s time to apply fertilizer. We use a custom 18-10-10 at LawnAmerica, which has mainly slow-release nitrogen, some extra sulfur to help lower pH, organic content, phosphorus and potassium, and some sytstemic insecticide mixed in to help prevent lacebug damage during the summer. Don’t overapply fertilizer, and water in well, following label instructions. And don’t fertilize after August 1st… the earlier the better.
Don’t neglect irrigation during hot summers also. I like to apply a fresh layer of pecan shell mulch each spring also to the beds, or pine mulch, which helps conserve soil moisture and helps keep soil pH levels low. As these decompose, it adds some good organic matter to the shrub bed also.
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