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Azaleas | Learn the keys to vibrant color

AZALEAS CAN BE A STUNNING garden addition, but they require some planning and attention. 

Proper planting location, preparation of the soil and careful maintenance are the keys to strong bloom color, long bloom time and lush, healthy plants. 

The planting location needs to be an area with filtered sunlight, or morning sun and afternoon shade, as well as protection from the dry south and west winds. Planted in the right spot, azaleas will have very few issues, but in poor or heavy soils that are not amended, or that are not acidic enough, they will exhibit chlorosis: pale green or yellowing of the leaves. In heavy shade they will have weak growth and smaller-than-normal leaves. Prolific azalea lace bugs will strike in stressed, dry locations.

The soil also needs to have excellent drainage and should be high in organic matter. Cultivate the soil before you plant, then add soil amendments such as pine bark soil conditioner, composted leaf mold, excellent quality topsoil and/or worm castings. Avoid using large amounts of peat-based amendments. They are difficult to incorporate correctly and can hold excessive water, keeping the soil too wet

Planting several azaleas in a group, rather than individually or in a row, will use the prepared soil area more efficiently. For long term success, always prepare and amend the entire planting site rather than amending only the planting holes. 

Azaleas are shallowly rooted, so maintaining a thick 3-inch layer of mulch will help cool the root system in the heat of summer and maintain moisture. When these guidelines are followed, azaleas will grow fabulously without much fertilization and will require little care after establishment. If your azaleas ever need pruning, do it right after flowering to prevent removing the following spring’s flower buds. 

When you take great care with site, soil, planting and maintenance, you will be rewarded with a long, natural, bright and beautiful azalea flower show for years to come.

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