How to Properly Care for Your Azaleas

Pink azalea

Azaleas thrive in areas where they don’t have to deal with harsh conditions - such as beating sun or heavy winds. J Park / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The azalea is one of America’s most popular and beloved flowering shrubs, showing up in landscapes from the Pacific Northwest to the deep south of Louisiana and Florida and almost everywhere between.

Planted in a happy spot, these prolific late-spring bloomers can live for decades with very little care. Give them the wrong location or care, though, and they’re not very forgiving. Know a few key needs of azaleas, and you’ll greatly reduce their early death rates.

Planting pointers

Things not to do when planting azaleas:

  • Plant in areas with clay or other heavy, poorly drained soils
  • Plant in open, full-sun locations (roots will quickly dry out & become prone to lace bug)
  • Place in areas that get blasted by heavy winds
  • Try not to plant in west or south facing beds, as they get more sun
  • Plant varieties that are listed outside of your growing zone

Things to do when planting azaleas:

  • Aim to plant in areas that are eastern or northern facing, or areas that get partial sun throughout the day
  • Improve poor soil by working generous amounts of compost, oak leaves, and/or finely shredded pine bark into the top foot of loosened soil (even 50 percent of these amendments is not too much)
  • Loosen the plant’s roots before planting & set it so the root ball is slightly above grade - never below
  • Soak the soil after planting
  • Cover the surrounding ground with two to three inches of bark mulch, keeping the mulch back several inches from touching the azalea’s trunk.
  • Keep young roots consistently damp, but not soggy

After-planting care

Regular watering is especially important in the first two to three years until the roots are established. In dry autumns, it helps to soak azaleas just before the ground freezes – especially evergreen azaleas that continue to lose moisture through the leaves all winter.

If you’ve planted a borderline-hardy variety or have a windy site, erect burlap barriers in front of your azaleas heading into winter to protect them from cold, drying winds.

Finally, one of the best ways to nurture a plant is to keep the area around the plant weed free. Without weeds, your valuable plants can grow larger and stronger. With Preen Garden Weed Preventer Plus Plant Food, you can do just that - prevent weeds from growing in the area for up to 3 months while also feeding your plants to promote beautiful color, foliage, and strong roots.

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