Planning for azaleas is important decision
By Allen Owings
HAMMOND — Azaleas are Louisiana’s most popular shrub among home gardeners. Fall is the best time to plant azaleas, followed, in turn, by winter, spring and summer. The vast majority of azaleas are, however, planted in spring. This is, of course, when garden centers have the best selection and is the time of the year when gardeners see azaleas in bloom.
Get long-term positive results with azaleas in the landscape by selecting the correct variety, planting properly and providing the most ideal growing conditions. With this year’s mild winter, azaleas are blooming in landscapes ahead of schedule across Louisiana.
Before purchasing azaleas, make sure to find out the mature size of the plants. Depending on the variety, azaleas may mature at sizes of less than 2-feet and up to 10-feet tall. Don’t purchase a type of azalea that will grow too large for the spot where it will be planted.
Spring-planted azaleas may take a little longer to become established than those planted in fall or winter. Flowering and shoot growth are going to occur at the time the azaleas are planted. This will slow down root growth and establishment. Most gardeners really should avoid summer planting, although successful planting at that time by is accomplished by providing extra care — primarily watering.
Many azalea varieties will tolerate full sun if given adequate moisture. Generally, however, azaleas grow best in a partial-sun to partial-shade environment. Four to six hours of morning sun provided by an eastern exposure is considered ideal. Azaleas tend to have sparse foliage, look leggy and bloom poorly when planted in too much shade. If grown in too much sun, azaleas may wilt constantly during hot, dry weather and scorch on leaf edges. Western sun exposure during summer and into early fall is hard on these plants.
Azaleas require good drainage but also need an even supply of moisture. They will not thrive in a location that is constantly wet or constantly dry. Uniformity in soil moisture is important for good growth and establishment in a landscape. Consider texture and structure of the native soil. Amending this soil with pine bark or a similar organic material will likely be needed.
Many azalea varieties are recommended for Louisiana landscapes. Popular ones include the Southern Indica, Robin Hill, Satsuki and Encore groups.
Find more about work being done in landscape horticulture by viewing the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond. Also, like the research station on Facebook by going to www.facebook.com and typing Hammond Research Station in the search box. An abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals is available.