Looking to add some powerful punch to your spring landscape with the ever-popular azalea? If so, you will need to know a little about azalea care and feeding before you spend those hard-earned bucks on this plant that nearly everyone agrees is an all-time favorite among plant lovers everywhere in the country.
Azaleas perform at their best in climates that offer fairly mild weather and moderate humidity. Part of azalea care and feeding knowledge includes learning to plant them in areas without high winds.
Evergreen shrubs such as juniper, boxwood, or Japanese ligustrum can be used not only as protection against harsh winds, but also as a background shrub to provide green color during that part of the year in which (deciduous) azaleas become dormant. You can also utilize your home to aid in wind protection by planting them against the walls on the south and east sides to avoid the bitter, hard winds of winter in many areas.
Planting Azaleas Right
For average-sized, three-gallon azalea plants, dig holes twice as large as the container in which they have been grown in well-draining soil that has a pH no higher than 5.5 If necessary, add amendments to the soil to aid in proper azalea care and feeding. (See: Improving Soil that is Too Alkaline)
You can test your soil pH with a kit found at most all nurseries or you can send a sample of your soil to your local county extension agent to test for a small fee. If your soil is too alkaline, it can be made more acidic by adding agricultural sulfur or ferrous sulfate, both of which can also be found at nurseries and garden centers.
Backfill the holes you have dug with a combination of the removed soil, peat moss, and pine bark mulch or some other type of acidic composted plant material. If amendments are needed to lower the pH of the soil to make it more acidic, incorporate that as well, using according to package directions. Ensure the plants are not too deep.
They should be level or slightly higher than the surrounding soil. After planting, firm the soil around the plants by tamping lightly with your feet. Water the plants in well for the best azalea care and feeding practices, and ensure the plant is thoroughly soaked by using a water hose turned to a slow drizzle and watering each plant for three or four minutes.
Feeding Azaleas Right
Azalea care and feeding instructions must always include proper fertilization instructions. General garden fertilizers are not appropriate for azaleas. Always feed using specially formulated preparations made for acid-loving plants.
Broadcast the fertilizer at the surface of the soil at a rate of one pound per 50 square feet of azaleas. For those who prefer to fertilizer organically and without fear of damaging the fine and shallow roots of azaleas, cottonseed meal provides an excellent source of nutrients for the azalea.
Besides learning about azalea care and feeding, always choose the healthiest, most vigorous-looking plants when shopping for them. Plant them correctly, feed them regularly and properly, and keep them from high, damaging winds, and you will be rewarded with eye-catching blooms from the somewhat-finicky azalea for years and years to come.
See Also: Growing Rhododendrons
photo by doug_wertman / CreativeCommons