Azalea care and maintenance
Azaleas are best planted at the east side of the house as the plants can take advantage of the full morning sun.There are a number of Azaleas that are sun hardy and can be planted in other areas of the garden.
The most important rule about soil is the drainage. Azaleas need good drainage as over wet or waterlogged soil can be the main reason for the deterioration or death of the plant. A fairly rich moist soil is required and never put lime in the Azalea garden as this could affect the growth and health of the plant. The best way to help drainage in heavy soils and to enrich all soil types is by digging in a thick covering of leaf mould, rotted animal manures or compost. Garden beds can be raised to help drainage in heavier soils.
The root system of an Azalea is wide but shallow and fibrous. It is important not to plant too high as this can lead to root drying and damage from heavy cultivation. It is equally important not to plant too deep in heavier soils as this can lead to collar rot.
After the soil has been properly prepared, holes are dug twice the size of the root ball of the plant. Soak the plant in a bucket of water and tease out the tightly packed roots that may have grown round the pot. This is important for encouraging outward movement of new roots and preventing dryness inside the root ball. The plant is placed in the hole with the top of the root ball at garden level. Enough soil is returned to anchor the plant and then filled with water. After the water has drained away the remaining soil can be replaced and firmed down.
Fertilizing and Watering:
Azaleas require fertilizer after flowering in spring and late summer. Both organic and non-organic types are suitable in granular, powder or liquid forms. Do not apply liquid fertilizers to dry plants. Over watering can be a major cause of stress and death. Waterlogged soils deplete oxygen levels and can virtually drown the roots and cause collar rot at the base of the stem. During times of hot weather deep soaking is necessary, all other times a light soak is all that is required.
Pests and Fungus:
Petal Blight – Small pin spots on flowers with the flowers having a greasy or slimy feel. Spray with fungicide as soon as the buds start to show colour every 10-14 days while flowering. Remove any affected flowers from the plants and destroy.
Azalea Lace Bug – Silvery or mottled leaves. The insects are about 4mm long with lacy wings and feed on the back of the leaves. Spray with systematic insecticide making sure the underside of the foliage is sprayed. Repeat in 7-10 days and again as necessary through summer. Once the leaves are damaged it cannot be reversed. Damaged foliage will drop off over time.
Two Spotted Mite and Broad Mite – New growth is curling under and has a slight brownish tinge. Older leaves curve under and may be an odd shape. Fine webbing in the area. Mites are very small and just visible to the naked eye, but can be easily detected with a magnifying glass. Spray with miticide.
Azalea Leafminer – Angular brown patches along the midrib of the leaf with tips of leaves folded over. This is caused by a caterpillar called Azalea Leaf miner. The adult moth lays its eggs singly along the leaf midrib. The caterpillars feed between the leaf layers causing a small dead patch they move to the tip, folding it over and deeding in the fold. Spray with systemic insecticide.
Please remember that all chemicals should be handled with extreme care and manufacturer’s instructions must be strictly followed.
It must be noted that Azaleas are quite hardy, contrary to the thought that they are difficult to grow. With a little bit of extra care the results from Azaleas can be more rewarding with better floral displays. Azaleas in flower can be used as a live floral arrangement on any table.