The azalea is a small plant native to Asia that belongs to the same botanical family as rhododendrons. Highly valued for its many varieties and beautiful bright colours, this ornamental shrub is ideal for enhancing flower beds and shrubbery in gardens. Easy to grow and maintain, azalea only needs very little care in order to flower upon the arrival of spring.

Very popular around the world, azaleas are ornamental plants native to Japan, China, Taiwan or Korea. Among the most widespread species, we mostly find deciduous azaleas such as the Yellow Azalea or Azalea Mollis, and evergreen azaleas, such as the Japanese or Korean azalea. As soon as April, these small shrubs, measuring 5 to 10 feet (1.50 m to 3 m), start producing beautiful and fragrant flowers that will brighten up gardens with their splendid shades of pink, red, yellow, orange, purple or violet. Particularly resistant to falling temperatures, azaleas are plants that withstand the cold well. However, if you live in areas where the climate is quite harsh, prefer species such as Azalea occidentalis or Taiwan Azalea. In most cases, except of course if you live in an apartment, your shrubs will be planted near flower beds made up of plants that require heath earth. Although the azalea does not require excessive maintenance, certain conditions must be met to allow the plant to grow and bloom throughout the summer.

Planting azaleas

Much like rhododendrons, azaleas are plants that need acidic soil rich in organic matter to grow well. Thus, calcareous soils should always be avoided since they can interfere with the plant’s well-being. Before putting your young shrubs in the ground, make sure that the soil is well-drained because the azaleas’ roots are particularly reluctant in regard to excessive moisture. Also, choose a location that is not directly exposed to sunlight and wind; a north or northwest orientation is perfect.

You will be able to plant your azaleas at the end of winter or upon the arrival of autumn. To do so, simply dig a hole two feet (50cm) deep, add heath earth and a little manure, place your seedlings in the hole, and finish by sealing it up with the removed earth. If you intend to plant several shrubs in one place, be sure to maintain a proper distance between plants so that they have enough room to grow. When you finish putting them in the ground, be sure to protect your seedlings with a layer of mulch comprising dead leaves.

Caring for azaleas

Azaleas are plants that bear absolutely no humidity. Consequently, avoid overly abundant watering to prevent their roots from rotting. Also, make sure that the earth is relatively dry before proceeding with a new watering. This precaution is also necessary in summer since excessive irrigation would only encourage the proliferation of leaves at the expense of flowers. Given that azaleas have a particular aversion to water that has a high limestone content, opt for rainwater only if you have no other alternative. Upon the arrival of winter, add a little manure, but never any fertilizer, to the earth to feed the plant better. You can also renew the procedure after the last frost to boost flowering. In case of large temperature drops, you can protect your plants by using mulch made up of pine bark. If you have opted for indoor azaleas, bring your plants back inside at the end of fall to bring them out again upon the arrival of spring. Finally, remember to prune your shrubs once summer ends. This procedure will be performed to air out the plant in order to give it a renewed vitality. Thus, your azaleas will pass the winter in perfect condition and will bloom again the following summer.

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Published in Flower guide by Alexander on 06 Jul 2011