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How to Grow Azalea Bushes
Popular Azalea bushes burst into a profusion of colorful blooms in the spring. The lush and beautiful flowers, are the reason why we love and grow Azaleas. The blooms are very fragrant, too. They put on a show in the spring in colors of white, lavender, bright orange, gold, red and purple.
Azaleas bushes are members of the Rhododendron family. It is not readily apparent why they are related. You would have to be a botanist to understand how they are related. Perhaps, the most noticeable difference to homeowners, is that the Azalea plant is a deciduous bush, shedding its leaves in the fall. The Rhododendron plant is an evergreen.
Most varieties of Azaleas grow two to eight feet tall. Small, young Azalea plants are poplar potted plants used as gifts for Easter and Mother's Day. After blooms die, they can be transplanted outdoors.
Propagation of Azalea:
Azaleas are grown from seeds, cuttings or grafting. A plant grown from seed, takes 2-10 years to produce the first bloom. Most of us are unwilling to wait that long, to enjoy these attractive flowers. So, we head off to the local garden store, or an online retailer. If you time your purchase right, you can enjoy your new blooming Azalea indoors as a houseplant, or on your patio or deck. After the flowers have died, transplant them into a flower bed, or along a foundation.
Plant or transplant Azaleas 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 Azalea Bushes:
Azaleas are easy to grow, acid loving plants. They grow best in light shade, and need protection from midday sun, and winter winds. The plants prefer a moist, well drained soil. The ideal pH is 5.5. Check the soil pH before planting. Adjust the pH level of the soil, 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.
Established plants grow well with little or no attention.
Plant roots are shallow. Water the plants during extended dry spells, even in the fall.
We recommend using acidic pine needles as mulch. It helps keep the soil moist, and adds acidity to the soil as it decomposes.
Pruning Azalea Plants:
The best looking Azalea bush, is a bushy one. Prune or pinch back the growing tips of young plants to promote bushy growth. Prune plants early in the spring. Note: pruning can 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.
Azaleas are susceptible to winter burn, caused by frozen ground, wind and winter sun. 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.
Insects and Diseases Affecting Azalea:
Insect and disease problems are infrequent. Treat with insecticides or fungicides only as needed.
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