Azalea Bush belongs to a family of flowering plants known as the ‘Ericaceae.’ They are also referred to as the ‘heather or heath family,’ which grows and blooms even in highly-acidic soils. Azalea is a member species in one of the largest plant genus, the Rhododendron. Rhododendron contains about 1,024 species of plants, both evergreen and deciduous. Azaleas belong to the Pentanthera (deciduous) and Tsutsuji (evergreen ) sections of Rhododendron.
Azalea responds differently to the climatic conditions of different regions of the globe. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Azalea bush blooms between October and November. In the Northern Hemisphere, it blooms in May and April. Irrespective of the climes, Azaleas prefer well-shaded locations devoid of scourging sun rays. They grow best under trees. Their flowers can last for weeks before shedding off.
In its full bloom, the sparkling sets of colorful flowers wrap off soft and deceptive shoots, making them attractive to behold. Azaleas are used as ornamentals in Southern Asia, some parts of Southwest Europe, and the southern US. They are native plants to North America, Asia, and Europe.
How to Grow Azalea
Bloom time, soil requirements, and reaction to climatic conditions are critical factors in the classification of plants. Azaleas are further classified into other subgroups, but as a gardener, the two most essential classifications for you to know are their deciduous and evergreen nature. Both affect how you should grow, care for, and maintain your Azalea plant for a bountiful yield. You can grow your Azalea bush using the underlisted methods.
You can grow Azalea bush by propagating the Azalea seedlings. However, when trying to grow your azaleas by propagating the seedlings, there are limitations. Most azaleas available are hybrids; multiplying through seedlings will rarely give you a version of the parent plant. Nevertheless, you can still grow your Azalea seedlings by propagation, but the risks involved may not be worth it.
Propagating your azalea vegetatively is a reliable and more effective method to grow your azalea than seedling propagations. Vegetative propagation involves using air layering, rooted stem cuttings, and stem layering to grow your azalea. It gives you the best clone of the parent plant inheriting its flowering process, adaptation to climatic changes, and resistance to pests and diseases.
However, different vegetative propagation methods apply to the two types of azaleas. Air layering or rooted stem layering is unsuitable if you want to grow your evergreen azaleas. Stem cutting is the best method for propagating evergreen azaleas. Deciduous azaleas, on the other hand, require stem layering. When the shrubs are larger, air layering can be preferable to other methods.
Planting Your Evergreen Azaleas
Stem cuttings are the best alternative for planting your azaleas. There are precautions to getting it done correctly to have the best result. Use inflexible semi-hardwood cuttings which is not too mature or tender but of average maturity.
- Your stems should be about one year old. They should bend without breaking. Let it fall between 5 to 6 inches in length. The best time to harvest the cutting is immediately after the plant has started flowing during spring.
- There should not be any leave from the lower half of the cutting. Trim cut ends but close the lead node, not including the leaf node.
- About two inches above the cut ends, scrape the bark using a sharp knife. Let it be just enough to remove the outer part of the bark from some spots.
- Insert the stem into a rooting hormone. A powdered routine hormone is preferable, and shake it to remove excess.
- You will also need a moist rooting medium for the lower third of your cutting. The medium can be a mixture of vermiculite, compost, peat moss, and sand.
- It would help if you sheltered your containers in the garden. Azaleas grow well in shaded spots devoid of excessive sun rays.
- Moisten the container by watering it regularly, but ensure that it is not overwatered because it could lead to waterlogging, which hinders and delay flowering.
- Your stem cutting for your evergreen azaleas will start forming roots between 4 to 8 weeks. As it grows, you can transfer them to a new pot if the need arises.
- As your new azalea plant begins to grow, ensure to keep them away from sunlight. You can tuck them under other shrubs or trees.
- Protection against frost during winter is also necessary. Using straws or pine needles for mulching is a sure safeguard against impacts from winter and frost.
Planting Your Azaleas Through Layering
As applied to some plants, you can grow your azaleas through layering. Layering involves allowing the root to develop on a stem that is not. You can layer in spring and fall, but timing is also essential. During spring, layering works well if it is done early before full spring. The same applies during the fall.
You can transplant azaleas layered in the spring into the garden during the fall of that same year, but it is always advisable to wait a year or two before transplanting a plant. This allows it to build a more adaptive ability to the rigors of a new environment when transplanted. To layer your azaleas, follow the following measures;
- Select a branch of the parent azalea. It should be long enough to stretch into the ground and bend without breaking. The contact stem, which will be below the soil, must be between 2 and 3 inches, while the tip of the branch should be 7 to 9 inches above the ground.
- Scrape off an inch of the outer bark of the stem where you want it to root. Insert the scrapped part into a powdered rooting hormone and shake off the excess.
- Dig a shallow trench 4 to 5 inches long and place the contact stem, covering it with soil. A wedge can be applied to ensure that the buried contact stem stays in place while under the soil.
- Between 7 to 13 weeks, your contact stem will generate roots. When it resists a gentle tug on the stem’s tip, it indicates that it has sprouted a root.
- You can leave it to root for up to 2 years before transplanting it. To transplant, loosen the soil around the contact stem with a trowel or spade. The parent plant should be snipped close to the contact stem before trying to uproot the contact stem.
- Ensure you don’t cross the dripline when digging out your rooted contact stem. This helps protect the roots from being damaged in the process. Gently lift the root ball to the place you want to transplant it.
How to Transplant Your Azalea Plants
If you had potted your azalea plant, you may have to transplant it when it has grown and deserves a broader space or pot to blossom. Transplanting should be handled with care to prevent damage to the plant. Follow the steps below to easily transplant your azalea without curing damage to the plant.
- Dig a hole relative to the size of the root ball. Your hole should be wide enough to accommodate the root ball. Three times the width of the root ball is recommended.
- The depth of the whole should be the same as that of the container it was growing.
- After uprooting your azalea root ball, water it before placing it in the dug hole.
- The soil mixture in the hole should be at least one-third of organic humus made up of shredded pine bark, aged compost, and leaf mold.
- Carefully and gently remove plants from pots, examine the roots and separate them gently if they are entangled.
- Place the root ball into the hole. Don’t sink the root ball deep below the ground. Let the soil be on the same level as the ground when filling the hole.
- Apply mulch generously to the surface of the ground. Pine needle straw, shredded leaves or straw, and pine bark can be used. While applying the mulch, ensure enough space around the stem to keep it dry and prevent rot.
- Water your newly planted azalea slowly and thoroughly to allow the solid to absorb the water gradually. Don’t overwater to avoid root rot
How To Care For Your Azalea Plants
After successfully planting your azalea plant, you must follow up with good care and maintenance measures for it to thrive. The measures elaborated below can help you grow and care for your azaleas.
Due to their shallow roots, azaleas are very sensitive to water. Overwatering or underwatering can have effects on the plant. Your azalea soil should be moist but don’t allow it to get soggy. Overwatering can thwart growth and damage the plant by causing root rot. In hot climates, water loses water to the surroundings faster. Increase the watering rate to keep the plant healthy, preventing leaf curl or wilting.
Much prevents weeds from outgrowing your Azaleas by suppressing them. It also helps retain moisture in the soil to aid growth. Derive your azalea mulch from organic materials spread on the soil, but it should not be close to the plant’s stem.
Space your azaleas stem and the mulch at least by 5-6 inches to allow proper aeration and ventilation of the plant. Your azalea mulch should be replenished at least once every year to provide additional nutrients and add a slight acidity to the soil necessary for the plant’s growth.
How To Prune Your Azalea Plant
Keeping the shape of the azalea plant is one of the ways of making it look beautiful and appealing. Pruning helps keep your azaleas in top shape and streamlines growth. Prune your azaleas immediately after they begin to bear flowers.
Some free-growing and errant branches should be cut back. However, the timing of the pruning is crucial to prevent it from losing flower buds. Don’t prune your azaleas in summer or fall to prevent them from losing the flower buds. When spotting infected branches or leaves, prune it off as soon as possible.
Protect Your Azaleas From Disease And Pest
Your azalea plant is vulnerable to various diseases and attacks by pests. Typical azaleas pests and diseases include spider, aphids mites, whitefly, scale, borer, nematodes, thrips, weevils, bugs, lace, powdery mildew, leaf spot, rust, crown or root rot, leaf gall, petal blight, chlorosis, dieback, and canker. You can companion your azalea with plants such as abelia, ferns, dogwood, hosta, Pieris, sedges, witch hazel, snowdrops, and hellebores. You can also use sprays to deter pests.
Exposure To Sunlight
Like other plants, azaleas need the right dose of sunlight to blossom and grow. Exposure to extreme temperatures can make it ot shrivel up. Less light will not allow it to flower. Six hours of continuous exposure to sunlight daily is recommended, but when it’s excessive, it can damage the plant.
A reliable method to regulate exposure to sunlight is by choosing an appropriate location for your plant. Place your azaleas in areas that receive morning light with afternoon shade. Even locations that receive slightly intense sunlight can be tolerated, provided it is adequately watered. Don’t plant it close to walls that face the south or west.
Where Is The Best Place To Grow Azaleas?
A good location reduces the stress and rigors of continuous monitoring and your azaleas. Choose a location with filtered light and good morning sun, with shade for the afternoon sun. The soil should be acidic and well-drained.
Are Coffee Grounds Good For Azaleas?
Coffee grounds are suitable for your azalea plants. Your azaleas grow well in acidic soils. Coffee grounds give the soil a slight acidity and supply nutrients.