Planting Azaleas

What is the best method for planting azaleas? I planted 8 last year and have already replaced 3 this year and need to replace 2 more.

The azalea is one of the showiest of the early spring flowering shrubs. They are quite simple to grow as long as you site and plant them correctly. Here are a few tips on the conditions azaleas favor and some guidelines on how to plant them.

Azaleas do best when protected from long periods of summer sun. Full morning sun or partial shade is ideal. They love cool, moist acidic soils, rich in humus or organic matter. Soil with lots of organic matter helps to keep the soil loose, and it also helps maintain a constant level of moisture.

Typically there are two things that kill azaleas. The first is putting them in the wrong location such as a location where it is too hot or a place where the soil is entirely too wet. The other problem is planting them too deeply. This can be the kiss of death for an azalea. To avoid this problem, plant them no deeper than the top of the root ball or the soil line in their container. Then water the shrub in to displace any air pockets in the soil.

Most of an azalea’s feeder roots are near the surface, which makes them susceptible to dry conditions. So, be sure to apply a 2″ to 3″ layer of mulch around the azalea. But, make sure you stay below the crown of the plant. To finish the job feed the shrub with a fertilizer especially blended for azaleas. And, then later in the summer, give them another feeding.

Most azaleas do not grow well in Northern gardens. They cannot survive the winters, but breeders have come a long way in developing varieties that are more cold tolerant. Check with your local nurseries and see which azaleas do best in your area.