There’s a reason that azaleas are known as “The Royalty of the Garden”. With their striking colors and long-lasting blooms, these are some of the most beautiful flowers around.
With so many varieties, ranging in size, color, and shape, these stunning flowers add instant intrigue to your garden—making a statement.
And they’re not just beautiful, either. Azaleas are known for their ability to adapt to their environment and survive.
Compared to other flowers, they are surprisingly low-maintenance. They don’t attract many insects or diseases and they don’t usually need fertilizer. All they require is a little bit of watering in the dry times—making them the perfect eye-catching addition to your garden.
Here we've assembled the best tips to help you learn how to grow azaleas in your garden. We’ll help you decide on the best spot to plant, how to plant your azaleas properly, and how to maintain healthy and beautiful flowers.
Choosing a spot to plant
Azaleas do best in filtered light or partial sun so choose a spot where they can get a lot of light for about 4 hours per day. The ideal location would be a place where they get morning sun and afternoon shade.
Although trees provide adequate shade, they compete with azaleas for water and nutrients. Therefore, try to avoid planting your azaleas directly under a tree.
These flowers prefer acidic soil, with a pH between 4.5 to 6.0, so you may want to conduct a soil test before planting your azaleas.
You can purchase an inexpensive soil meter like this one on Amazon. It tests for soil pH, moisture levels, and light. As an added plus, it has a rating of 4.5 stars with almost 8,000 reviews.
If you find that your soil is not quite acidic enough, you may need to add some soil amendments like ammonium sulfate to get it to the right pH level.
In addition to pH level, you want to make sure that your soil is well-draining; otherwise, your roots can get soggy—eventually leading to root rot (nobody wants that). You can refer to this guide on improving soil drainage. Although it focuses more on potted plants, you can use some of the strategies in the garden.
You want to have just the right amount of moisture. Too much causes soggy roots but too little causes the roots to dry out. Adding some mulch can help ensure that your azaleas maintain a good amount of water (we’ll discuss more on this later).
How to Grow Azaleas - Planting
If your azaleas were grown in a pot or container, take them out of the container and inspect the roots. If they are compacted and dense along the surface, use a knife to make a few vertical cuts around the root ball. Then, loosen the roots and pull gently outwards to allow the roots room for new growth and moisture absorption.
After making sure the roots have room to breathe, water the root ball thoroughly before planting.
Dig a planting hole about twice as wide as the root ball itself but no deeper than the root ball.
Next, you'll want to mix organic matter, such as compost or decayed leaves, into your soil until the ratio is approximately 1:1 organic matter to soil. Place the root ball of the azalea plant into the hole and pack the mixture into the hole—firmly packing the bottom around the roots to prevent settling.
Continue packing in the soil/organic matter mixture until you fill the hole. After making sure the plant is secure, add a layer of about 2 to 4 inches of a fine texture mulch to the top of the soil surrounding the plant.
The mulch should not go all the way to the base of the plant but should taper off around the stem—this will prevent pests. Remember not to apply too much mulch (no more than 2 to 4 inches thick) as it can cause your azaleas to struggle absorbing water.
According to the University of Georgia, using mulch helps prevent the roots from drying out, insulates them against the weather, reduces weeds, and prevents rodents from gnawing at the plant's stem.
After successfully planting your azaleas, make sure to water them thoroughly. Water slowly so that your soil can soak up the water without too much runoff.
How to Care for the Azaleas
Experts recommend that azaleas get the equivalent of one inch of rainwater per week—equating to approximately one half-gallon per square foot.
To determine if your azaleas need water, check the soil surrounding the plant. If it is dry to the touch, it's likely time to water.
Be sure to water evenly and consistently as azaleas are prone to water stress due to their shallow root system. Avoid overwatering—again, you don't want root rot. Here’s a great article on how to properly water your plants.
Be sure to maintain at least 2 inches of fine-textured mulch around your azalea plants. You may need to add mulch periodically to maintain the appropriate thickness. As the mulch decays, it will provide necessary nutrients to the plant—decreasing the need for fertilizer.
The organic matter mixed with the soil during planting (in addition to the decaying mulch) can provide most of the nutrients an azalea plant needs; however, there are times when fertilizer may be necessary.
Choose a fertilizer specifically designed for azaleas and use it according to the manufacturer's instructions. Here’s a list of the best slow-release fertilizers for flowers such as Azaleas. Avoid fertilizing azaleas too frequently. Excess fertilizer can damage their shallow root system.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Azaleas
What is the best time to plant azaleas?
Azaleas should be planted in either the late spring or early fall.
Are azaleas high maintenance?
Once established, azaleas don't require much maintenance. They simply need routine watering when rainfall doesn't provide sufficient moisture.
Do azaleas like sun or shade?
Azaleas do best in full sunlight or partial shade (4 hours of sunlight per day). They should be planted where they can receive morning light and afternoon shade. Avoid planting them directly under a tree as they don't like having to compete for water and nutrients.
Do azaleas need lots of water?
Azaleas' water needs depend on the time of year and how much sunlight they are receiving. When planted in warm and sunny areas, azaleas need more water than they do in cool, shaded areas.
As a general recommendation, azaleas should receive about an inch of water per week either by hand watering or rainfall. This equates to approximately a half-gallon of water per square foot.
Azaleas instantly add beauty and interest to your garden. They are easy to grow, require little maintenance, and give off large, bright blooms that last well into the fall. Why wouldn’t you want a garden full of them?
Go pick up a few today and start planting! You will be happy that you did.