Everything You Need to Know about the Azalea

The azalea is renowned for bearing exquisite flowers with various colors, from white to purple.

Incorporating this variety in your garden would be a great idea. To know more about how to make it thrive, look no further. You can find it here.


Azalea: An Overview

Nothing is more beautiful than an azalea shrub in spring bloom. These easy-care shrubs come in so many colors it’s hard to find one that doesn’t suit your needs.

Azalea bush (Rhododendron spp.), also known as “The Royalty of The Garden”, is a type of shrubby plant that produces brightly colored flowers.

Rather than being invasive, this shrub has a tidy and neat growing habit. You can find two types of azaleas, namely deciduous azaleas and evergreen azaleas.

The deciduous ones are native to the western and eastern United States, Europe, and Asia.

Since they shed a lot of leaves in fall, you had better plant them outdoors.

The evergreen azalea is native to Japan. Some people call it Tsutsusi. This type typically grows from 0.9 to 2.4 meters tall.

Since it does not shed its leaves in fall, people usually grow it indoors and outdoors. Most varieties bloom in spring and grow from two to eight feet tall.

However, you can still get blooming evergreen azaleas in any season because many florists grow them under greenhouse conditions.

This way, they are ready for gift giving on Mother’s Day and Easter.

The evergreen varieties generally thrive in USDA zones 5 to 9. In proper conditions, they bear lavender, white, purple, bright orange, red, and gold fragrant flowers.

Types of Azaleas

There are nearly 10,000 different types of azaleas, with many of them being native to different parts of the US.
Azalea Varieties

Before planting azalea in your garden, you need to know its types so that you can pick the best one that is suitable for you and your yard.

The azalea plant comes in several varieties. Native azaleas are like small trees and most of them lose their leaves in winter.

They can put up with warmer temperature. Since they do not grow big, you do not need to prune them.

Asian azaleas do not grow as tall trees.

They are shrubs instead. These types come in two evergreen varieties, namely Kurume hybrids and Southern Indian hybrids.

Kurume hybrids will not grow any larger than three or four feet tall. These types are not fussy, which is suitable for beginners.

You can plant them outdoors, in raised beds, or containers to get beautiful bright red flowers.

Southern Indian hybrids can grow tall and large. For this reason, you need to prune them religiously, especially if you plant them in a small garden.

This variety comes in various colors like white and hot pink, which will jazz up your yard and improve the curb appeal.

You can also find some other specific varieties that will fit in with most landscape situations. Here is the list.

Roseshell azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum)

Rhododendron prinophyllum, commonly called early azalea or roseshell azalea, is a deciduous azalea native to Missouri.
Roseshell Azalea

This type belongs to the deciduous varieties, which is renowned for being the hardiest of all.

It thrives in zone 3 and 4 and can bear bright-pink flowers.

Joseph Hill

Dense and compact evergreen shrub. North Tisbury hybrid with masses of bright red flowers nearly cover the plant in spring.
Joseph Hill

This azalea belongs to low-growing ground cover varieties. It does well in zone 6 because it is an evergreen plant.

Once it thrives, this variety shows bright red flowers.

Sweet azalea (R. arborescens)

A loosly branched deciduous shrub that has pink or yellow fragrant flowers and bright orange to crimson fall foliage.
Sweet Azalea

If you look for a taller variety, this one’s for you. This deciduous type can grow as tall as 20 feet and bear white flowers.

Best Soil for Azalea

Azaleas do well in moist, acid (pH 5.5 or so), well-drained soil with lots of organic matter, such as peat, compost, chopped leaves, or ground bark. They won't grow in heavy clay, pure sand, or alkaline soil.
Azalea Soil

Most of azalea varieties are hardy. It does not mean you can neglect several factors that can help them thrive, though. One of which is the soil.

The azalea needs to live in well-drained, acidic soil because it has shallow roots.

If your area does not provide good drainage, you had better grow it in raised beds or containers.

Another option that you can try is mixing the soil with compost prior to planting.

You can also mulch it with composted pine barks or pine straw to get rid of weeds while conserving water and maintaining soil temperature.

In addition to discouraging weeds, adding mulch and organic matter can provide nutrients needed by azalea.

Thus, you will not need to fertilize it anymore.

If your azalea is stunted, its leaves are smaller and greenish yellow in color, and they fall earlier, it means your plant is suffering from nutrient deficiency.

For this reason, applying fertilizer in late spring or early fall is necessary.

How to Plant Azalea

Select a location that has morning sun and afternoon shade, or filtered light. Hot all-day sun can stress the plants and make them more susceptible to pests. Azaleas also require well-drained, acidic soil.
Planting Azalea

Once you know the types of azaleas and the conditions of your area, you can begin to plant the shrubs.

Here are the steps.

  1. Choose the Spot

Plant them in dense shade and they won't bloom. A good location is where they receive either dappled sun all day or sun in the morning and light shade in the afternoon. Good places might include spots under trees, or along the north side of your house.
Best Spot for Azalea

Most of azalea varieties do not perform well with full sun although several deciduous types love a lot of sun.

Therefore, you need to know the variety that you will grow so that you can decide where to put it.

If your azalea flower is not really into sunlight, exposing it to full sun is not a good idea since it will not thrive.

Thus, you should place it in a dappled-shaded spot like an area under shady trees.

  1. Work on the Soil

If grown in-ground, enrich the soil with plenty of compost; if in pots, always use a good quality azalea/camellia potting mix. Azaleas are surface-rooted so don't plant too deep but do top the roots with a good layer of mulch.
Soil for Azalea

As mentioned above, an azalea tree requires soil that can drain extremely well.

This shrubby plant will not thrive if you grow it in soggy soil that tends to retain water after rains.

Therefore, check it prior to planting. To know whether the soil can drain well, you can try digging a hole before the rain comes.

Then, let it shower this spot so that you can take a look at the ground afterwards.

If you can find water overwhelming the hole, it means the soil does not drain properly. It may contain a lot of clay.

However, if the water is not there anymore, you can plant your azalea there.

Although your soil does not drain well, you can still do something with it to promote better drainage.

Try mixing it with compost to loosen it up.

Moreover, combine it with other organic matter. Another option, which is more straightforward, is by growing your azalea in a container.

Besides checking whether the soil drains well, you will also need to determine its acidity. Azaleas thrive in a slightly acidic soil that has pH 5.5 or pH 6.

Importantly, conducting a test to know the acidity level of your soil is very essential.

If it contains alkaline, try adding some sulfur into the dirt prior to planting. This way, you can balance it.

  1. Begin to Plant the Azalea

Now, start growing your azalea. First, dig a hole using a garden shovel. Then, remove the shrub from the container and dip its root ball in water.

Also, utilize a hose to dampen it. This step is crucial before setting it into the soil.

After setting down the azalea, add some soil into the hole around it. Then, use your fingertips to pat it.

Next, water the plant and the soil gently and thoroughly. Do it again on the next day.

Azalea Plant Care

Azaleas do well in full sun or part shade. Planted in full sun, azaleas will be more compact and floriferous. When planted in part shade, they will stretch toward the sunlight and form a more graceful habit; flowers will not be as plentiful but will last longer.
Rhododendron Plant Care

Taking care for azalea plant outdoors is not that hard. You should water this shrub once a week to keep it healthy.

However, you have to do watering more frequently if you grow the plant in direct sunlight to avoid drying out. Otherwise, it will wither.

Besides, ensure that your azalea is under dappled shade. Full sun is not good for it because it can literally burn its leaves.

On the other hand, heavy shade hinders it from getting oxygen. This condition can result in weaker growth and poor blooming.

Try to keep the soil moist by adding a layer of pine bark, sawdust, wood chips, or pine needles between your azaleas.

This method will also help you maintain the soil temperature. More importantly, applying mulch will deter weeds.

Fertilizing your azalea is not always a good idea, especially if the soil is already rich and acid, because it may damage the root systems.

Taking Care for Azalea Plant Indoors

The plant needs good light, such as morning direct sun and afternoon shade or bright indirect light all day. Azaleas as houseplants do best at temperatures around 60-65° F. Cooler temperatures will also help blooms last longer. Moisture is very important for indoor azaleas.
Indoor Azalea Care

Growing azaleas indoors is not impossible. Importantly, place it near a window to get natural light.

Further, avoid exposing it to cold, frosty nights. Keep the temperature around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keeping your azalea moist is crucial. Prepare a tray with pebbles and water.

Then, make it tangible by placing the container on the tray. Another option is by using a room humidifier.

You might think that misting azalea leaves can improve the moisture. That is not always true. In fact, it can only lead to fungus.

How to Prune Azalea

The best time to trim azaleas is after the blossoms have faded, but before the new blossom buds have started. The next year’s blossoms typically start forming at the beginning of July, so you must prune an azalea bush before then.
Pruning Azalea

Pruning is necessary if you want to preserve the beauty of your azalea.

Trim some dead branches of this shrub in spring to promote new growth. Do not go overbroad, though.

If you want to reshape it, you need to do it later in summer. You can do it by cutting long, stray shoots located next to woody branches.

This way, you can keep the natural form of your plant.

You may also need to trim the areas that look too crowded. By doing this, you can help promote airflow while making your azalea more beautiful.

Growing azalea may take time. However, it is worth the wait and effort. Even better, you can bring it into your house so that you can display it in your living room.

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