In the rest of this post, we will share with you some of the most important things you need to know about azaleas, including how to grow the plant and how to take care of it. More so, we will also discuss its different varieties to help you choose which one is best to grow.
Background and History
Azalea is a perennial shrub that is a part of the Rhododendron family. However, while the common rhododendron produces blooms in clusters, azalea only has a single bloom in one stem. It is a hardy plant that thrives well in almost any climate, especially if you provide it with tender loving care. For hundreds of years, many plant enthusiasts bred the plant, which explains why today, there are more than 10,000 cultivars that are available.
A native to Thailand and China, azaleas were popular in Asia since the ancient times, especially in Chinese medical texts. It is the national flower of Nepal. In Holland, the first appearance of azaleas was in 1680, which was from Japan. Today, azalea is popular all over the world not only as a landscaping and ornamental plant, but also because of its symbolism. It could mean different things in different cultures. The color of the flower may also connote different meanings. In most cases, the flowers are a symbol of passion, elegance, wealth, femininity, intelligence, and fondness, among other things.
Physical Characteristics of Azalea
The physical appearance of azalea may vary. This will depend on the specific variety of the plant. From the color of the blooms to the size of the plant, there can be plenty of differences. It can be a deciduous or an evergreen plant. They have showy blooms that are sure to add beauty to any space. The color of the flowers may vary, but most of them are pink, white, yellow, red, purple, or orange. Most of them bloom at the same time in one season. The flowers have five to six stamens, as against other rhododendrons that have up to ten stamens. The length of the flower can be two to four inches.
When it comes to leaves, on the other hand, they are pointy, soft, and thin. They also do not have scales in the bottom, unlike other rhododendrons. More often than not, the length of the flowers will be one to six inches.
The height of azalea can reach up to ten feet, which makes it important to have a generous amount of space in the garden. Regular pruning will help to keep the plant compact. There are some varieties that are primarily for groundcover, which can have a maximum height of only 12 inches. Some can also thrive well even in containers, which you can transplant in an open and bigger space when the plant grows.
Varieties of Azalea
If you cannot decide on which variety is best to grow, below is a quick look at some of the choices you might want to look at:
- Autumn Coral
- Autumn Moonlight
- Lemon Lights
- Arneson Golden Solitaire
- Flame Creeper
- Sweet September
- Girard’s Hot Shot
- Pink Cascade
- Mandarin Lights
This dwarf type of Encore azalea reaches a maximum height of only 2.5 feet and spread of three feet. It produces pink flowers with a diameter of around 2.75 inches. Because of its size, this is a good choice for container gardening.
If space is not an issue, this is a good choice for an azalea to plant in the garden. On average, the height of this type will reach up to five feet. It is an upright variety and is also fast-growing, making it an ideal choice for impatient gardeners.
A deciduous azalea, it has showy and bright yellow blooms. More than the big flowers, it is also popular for its distinct fragrance. The shrub grows upright, but it is round. It is a good choice to grow if you are in a place with a cooler climate.
This is another azalea that is attractive because of its bright yellow blooms. It is a shrub that grows to an average height of 36 to 48 inches. In some cases, the flowers will have pink blotches on the edge of its petals.
If you are looking for an azalea that will make an excellent choice for a groundcover, this is one that should be on the top of your list. It has an average height of six to 12 inches. Meanwhile, the spread can be anywhere from two to three feet. It produces bright orange flowers.
This plant can have a height of six to eight feet. It is a late blooming variety, which explains the name of the plant. It has pink blooms, which provide it with a delicate appearance.
This prolific bloomer will have red orange flowers. It is a low growing variety, which will usually have a height of two to four feet. The width, on the other hand, will be approximately three to five feet.
For novices in gardening, this is one of the best picks for an azalea to grow. The flame red flower of this azalea makes it attractive. Its maximum height is four feet while the maximum width is three feet.
This cascading shrub has large salmon-pink flowers that stand out in a sea of dark green foliage. It is an evergreen azalea that will grow best in a soil with high acidity and in places with warm weather.
A hardy azalea, its blooms are bright orange in color, which will show in spring. The foliage is lustrous green. The color contrast will make it a good choice for border or accent plants.
Uses and Applications
There are several ways to use azaleas, such as through the following:
- Garden Plant: This is perhaps the most popular reason why people grow azaleas. It can be a ground cover or border plant. It can add life to your backyard. It has showy blooms with bright colors, which will brighten any space.
- Floral Arrangements: If you like making bouquets, either as a hobby or as a business, you can grow azaleas and make use of its blooms. You can also put it in a vase and will enliven any room in the house.
- Air Purifier: A lot of you would know that the beautiful flowers of azalea will make it a good choice for a houseplant. Nonetheless, a lot are unaware of the fact that azalea can also be an excellent way to get rid of pollutants in the air, allowing it to deliver improvements in indoor air quality. It will be a good plant to have in the basement. To be specific, it gets rid of formaldehyde in the air.
How to Plant Azaleas
To plant azalea, you do not need to start from a seed. Rather, you will have to begin with a seedling or a young plant. You need to decide on which variety will work best for your environment. The climate from where you live and the amount of space that is available are some of the considerations that you need to think about. There are azaleas that can function as a groundcover while there are also some that can grow tall. Choose one that is appropriate for your place.
Find the perfect spot in the garden. It should be shady with indirect sunlight. If there is full sun, it can inhibit the growth of the plant. Consult with the specific variety of the azalea as this will be indicative of the sun or light requirements.
Examine the quality of the soil. One of the most important is that it should be well-draining. If the water stays for too long on the surface, this can be a reason for the plant to suffer from root rot, among other problems. Adding compost or organic matter will also be good not only to increase the nutrients in the soil, but to allow it to drain better. The acidity of the soil is equally important. The pH level should be anywhere from 5.5 to 6 since azalea will thrive best in a soil that is slightly acidic.
After choosing the location and making sure that the condition of the soil will be favorable, now is the time to plant the azalea. Using a garden shovel, dig a hole on the surface, making sure that it is big enough to accommodate the root ball of the azalea that you will be transplanting. Dip the roots in water and place it on the hole. Cover it with light soil. Press firmly from the top and water the surface lightly.
Common Pests and Diseases
Generally speaking, azaleas are healthy, but without the right growing conditions, they can suffer from a number of problems. Some of the diseases that can be apparent include azalea gall, petal blight, powdery mildew, rust, and twig blight. These diseases can delay the flowering of the plant and can also demonstrate loss of vigor. The same things can be true in the case of infestation from the most common azalea pests, such as caterpillars, leaf miners, thrips, lace bugs, and stunt nematodes.
How to Take Care of Azaleas
Azaleas are not demanding in terms of the care and maintenance that they require. Here are some of the things that you should do to keep the plant in its best shape:
- You have to be careful about watering. While water is necessary for the growth of the plant, overdoing it is one of the leading causes of azalea’s death. Water only when the ground is firm and dry. In the summer, however, you need to water more frequently as the heat can cause dehydration.
- It will also be necessary to prune the plant early in the spring. This will help in maintaining its compact shape. To add, it will also redirect the energy to the production of newer and healthier growth. If there are dead branches, or ones showing symptoms of diseases, prune them the soonest to avoid the infection from spreading.
- You can use fertilizers, but you should do it sparingly. With the right growing conditions or environment, there will be no more need for fertilizing. This will be the case if you have an acidic and nutrient-rich soil. If there is a need to fertilize, do it only in spring. Too much fertilizer can kill the plant. It can also encourage too much foliage growth without flowering.
- Mulching is important to help retain moisture in the soil and to supplement the nutrients that the roots need. Use saw dust, wood chips, and pine needles, among others. They will also help in the prevention of the growth of weeds.
- If you have an indoor azalea, see to it that the temperature is favorable for its condition. Ideally, the temperature should be anywhere from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also place a humidifier near the plant to alter the external environment and to provide the moisture that it needs, especially during the humid months.
Most people grow azalea purely for aesthetic purposes. Unlike other flowers, they are not for cooking or for medical applications. With this, the only time that you have to harvest the flower is when you have to use it in a bouquet or floral arrangement. See to it that the blooms are big enough depending on its specific variety. Cut it using clean scissors, which will prevent the spread of infection to the healthy parts of the plant. Do not plant directly from the bottom of the blooms. Cut long enough so that there will be a stem. Pay attention as well to proper storage and handling, which will provide you with the assurance that the flower will stay fresher longer.
The spring color of azalea blooms is sure to brighten up any garden. They may be slow-growing, but with patience and determination, success is easy to achieve, even as a novice gardener. With a well-draining soil and sunny location, among other requirements, azaleas will survive. Proper care and maintenance will be necessary, but luckily, you do not need to exert a lot of effort in keeping the plant in its best condition.