Azaleas bring immense color to any garden and are such wonderful shrubs when given the right balanced environment to grow. Follow these tips to prepare your azaleas for planting, and they will reward you by being low maintenance plants with glorious blooms. We will guide you through what is the best way to plant azaleas to get the most out of their growth potential.
Best Way to Grow Azaleas
Azaleas can be grown from seed, propagated by cuttings, or even purchased from a local nursery.
Grow from Seed
It is easy to grow azalea plants from seeds. It takes time and a lot of patience but can be a very rewarding experience nurturing a seed through its life cycle. Once you have a well-established azalea, you can continue to harvest and prepare seed pods and continually add lovely azaleas to your evolving landscape.
Sow seeds in a covered seed tray filled with moist seed starting mix and place under fluorescent lights until the seeds sprout and grow to reach the top of the seed tray cover. Remove the cover and continue to nurture the seedlings until they are big and strong enough thinned out into their pots to continue growing.
Rooting is another exciting way to propagate plants. If you cut off new growth from an established plant and put it in the ground, there is a chance that it will root and grow into a new plant. Ideally, the cutting needs a little help to get off to a healthy start so that the stem doesn’t rot and break down into the soil. You can make your rooting hormone at home from organic materials that you may be right at your fingertips.
Organic Rooting Methods
Environmentally conscious gardeners may not want to use synthetic rooting hormones found on nursery shelves. There are some fantastic natural rooting methods that you can use to get started and on your way to the best way to plant azaleas yourself.
Willow Steeping Method
If you have access to willow trees, it is by far the best organic rooting hormone available. Willow extract naturally contains two auxin hormones: salicylic acid (SA) and indolebutyric acid (IBA). The combination of these two auxins encourages root growth and protects the cutting from bacteria and disease. Use harvested growing tips from the willow tree to access the highest concentration of these naturally occurring hormones.
Apple Cider Vinegar Method
Another tried and true method is to combine three teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with one gallon of lukewarm water. Snip a cutting of an azalea plant with sharp shears and dip the stem into the solution before planting the stem directly in the soil.
Another method involves using the natural bacteria cutting miracle of local honey. You can apply the honey directly to the cutting or steeping one tablespoon of honey in two cups of hot water and stirring. Allow the mixture to cool completely and dip your cutting in the solution before planting.
What Conditions Provide the Best Way to Plant Azaleas?
The ideal time to plant azalea bushes is early Spring and early Fall when they are dormant. Several other factors play a significant role in the health of your azalea bush such as the amount of sunlight, the soil composition and pH of the garden bed.
Before you start digging, it is important to consider where the best place to plant azaleas. Most varieties of azaleas thrive best in the filtered light and partial shade. Too much sun can damage the leaves and cause them to burn, resulting in leggy shrubs that are not high producing bloomers. It is best to plant azaleas on the North or East side of your home for ideal growing conditions.
Azaleas develop best in organically rich soil and desire balanced moisture content. Poor drainage of the short root system of this high yield bloomer will, unfortunately, lead to yellowing and wilting.
These prolific blooming shrubs prefer soil with a pH of 5 to 6.5. Everyone’s soil pH is different, and luckily, there are several ways to organically change the Ph of your soil to ensure that your azalea plant gets planted in its best-growing environment. Successful gardeners should adjust the soil pH before they plant and then periodically test it so that you can add proper organic matter.
- To Decrease Acidity: A sprinkling of crushed oyster shells, wood ashes
- To Increase Acidity: Pine needles, pine bark mulch or Sulphur
Now that you have prepared your soil and ensured that your azalea bush will have the most robust of growing conditions, you are ready to get your hands dirty and give your azalea its home in the ground.
Ensure proper spacing so that your azalea has room to spread out its branches as it matures. The best way to plant azaleas is 2-6 feet apart, depending on how large it is expected to grow. Your seed packet or nursery tag should give you additional guidance on the variety of the azalea.
Be sure to loosen the roots and water the azalea before planting. If your plant is root bound, use your fingers or a sharp knife to pull apart the tangled root system. If using a knife, carefully make several vertical cuts around the outer rim of the root ball. Then gently loosen the roots giving them the proper start to stretch out in the nutrient-rich soil.
Dig a hole that is two times as wide as the root ball and set the azalea plant so that the top of the root ball is level with the ground. If you set the azalea too deep, the roots may rot out because azaleas have a shorter root system than other plants.
Next, fill the hole halfway with prepared soil. Water your azalea in well and allow the plant to settle before filling in the remainder of the soil. Lastly, add some organic mulch loosely around the base of your azalea. This final step will protect your hardy shrub from frost and help the plant maintain proper moisture levels.
What is the best way to Care for My Azaleas?
While these forgiving garden treasures are fairly self-sufficient, there is some basic care that will ensure continued strong growth.
Azalea plants take in water from their foliage as well as their root systems, so it is best to water them from above via hose or garden sprinkler.
Azaleas require only a Light prune by snipping or pinching off spent flower stalks in Springtime just after the blooming period has ended. This helps you control both the shape and health of the shrub.
Azaleas traditionally do not suffer greatly from insect damage, but there is always an exception to the rule. Good planting and maintenance practices are a key-elements of keeping plants resistant to bugs and disease.