Re: [IGS] Care and feeding of Azaleas - was: HHHEEEELLLLPPPPP


Somehow, I missed the first post on this subject, but FWIW, I'll add my two
cents:

All Azaleas are ericaceous plants and absolutely require acid soil.  They
also want a highly organic, fast draining soil that stays continually
moist.  This is sometimes a tough combination.  They can't stand to dry out
and they *must* have good drainage; wet feet are their ticket to the great
compost heap in the sky.

If you garden in heavy clay, you may need to plant "high".  I have been
known to set the rootball on top of the natural grade and fill around it
with a nice mix.  A mix of fine pine bark or well-rotted wood chips or
well-rotted sawdust and coarse sand and a bit of peat makes them pretty
happy.  If you do this, you have to carry the mix well outside the rootball
and build up the area around it so you don't leave the rootball sitting
high and dry after the first gully-washer sends the mix down the hill.

If your plant isn't thriving and you have heavy soil, you may want to dig
it up and replant it higher...it could be succumbing to the bath tub effect
of digging a hole in clay!  All Azaleas have very shallow, fibrous
rootballs which makes it easy to move them at any time the ground isn't
frozen.  It also makes it easy for them to dry out, so keeping them well
mulched is a good idea.

Carolyn, depending on which species and cultivar you have, you may not see
bloom because the buds get frosted.  It also might just be marginally hardy
for you - some of the "hardy" varieties are more hardy than others.

Azaleas set buds on old wood and should be pruned (if needed - not just to
do it) immediately after they finish blooming.  You can trim just about
anywhere as they will sprout leaves (the evergreen types will) from many
places on young stems.  I'm a bit charry about cutting into really old wood
as it will sometimes just die and not re-sprout.  If a stem or branch has
really outgrown its place, then you may need to cut it off at the main stem
or the ground.  You can try heading back and if it doesn't leaf out then
take it out.

As they get older, and particularly when they are in a good deal of shade,
they will develop a lot of dead wood in the center and lower down on the
plant.   This can and should be removed at any time you can get around to
the task.

They are not heavy feeders, but if leaf color and vigor are not up to par,
give them a feed in very early spring, again right about now as bloom
finishes and no later than June so that you don't encourage late new growth
that can be frosted by winter.

When I get around to it - not always every year - I use a bagged product
called "HollyTone" - it may not be available everywhere, but you should be
able to find a similar fertilizer that is formulated specifically for acid
loving plants.  Miracid is a nice "pick-me-up", but I'm not sure about it
for general purposes for garden plants.  Should work nicely for potted
ones.   If you give them a good mulch, especially if you top dress with
some nice leaf mold every once in a while, you really don't have to feed
them much.

If the leaves exhibit chlorisis, it's usually an iron deficiency brought on
by soil that isn't acid enough.  You can get ....oh rats! can't remember
the name of it....but it's a powder that you mix with water and spray on
them - greens them right up.  If you need to know the name, let me know and
I'll go look on my container.

Most Azaleas need a cool, dormant period.  This can be at temps around 40F,
and, of course many tolerate much lower temperatures.  I have some in pots
- a few are the florist, non-hardy kinds, and a few are cuttings I'm
growing on from hardy varieties in my garden.  I winter them over in my
pseudo greenhouse which doesn't get much colder than 40F.  They do fine and
the hardy ones come into bloom about a month earlier than their parents
outside.  The florist varieties throw blooms off and on all year around.

If you have to maintain them in pots because your garden conditions aren't
suitable, or they aren't hardy, then they need to have a fairly high
ambient humidity - if you're in desert conditions, try setting the pots on
trays of gravel or pebbles and keeping the trays topped up with water to
the underside of the top of the gravel - you don't want the pots sitting in
water.  This will help keep the air around the plant moist.  Daily misting
will also help if the air is very dry.  These are plants that originate in
cool, most climates, so they need the humidity in the air.

The key to wintering over  potted Azaleas is being able to give them a cool
winter environment with bright light - not necessarily direct sun and
sufficient ambient humidity.  They will not flourish in normal house
temperatures.

Azaleas (all members of the Rhododendron family, in fact) are lovely plants
with fairly exacting requirements.  If you can meet those requirements,
they will give you great pleasure for years and years.  I've got some that
are more than thirty years old and many that are pushing twenty.

Hope this helps.  Turned out to be more than 2 cents worth...but I do tend
to run on at the keyboard :-)

Marge Talt, zone 7 Maryland
mtalt@clark.net
Editor:  Gardening in Shade
http://www.suite101.com/frontpage/frontpage.cfm?topicID=222
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----------
> From: Carolyn Schaffner <SCHAFFCM@BUFFALOSTATE.EDU>
> Date: Sunday, May 03, 1998 6:32 AM
>
> Does this advise for azaleas hold for 'florist's azaleas' as well as
'garden
> azaleas'?? One is hardy, the other is not.
>
> I'm asking because my 'garden variety' is not thriving, altho' it
continues
> to come back each year. It is among dicentra and corydalis, both of which
> have outstretched the garden azalea.
>
> Usually the squirrels have eaten the flower buds from the azalea but this
> year I have a cat which sits in the window and I've seen no squirrels!
She
> doesn't have a mean look, but, it appears, an effective one!
>
> I would like to know how to prune the garden variety azalea, and the sort
of
> fertilizer it would like -- prior to  blooming it might like 5 = 10 = 5?
How
> about a formulation for liquid fertilizer "especially for azaleas" like
> MirAcid? And only one application per year??
>
> THANKS!   I know this is not geraniums --->
>
> Carolyn Schaffner in Buffalo, NY
>
> PS --> I toss the 'florist azaleas' out after their blooming, they don't
> seem to put out new growth because, I think, they've been weakened by
> being forced into blooming so heavily ????? I have two from Easter that
> were MARVELOUS but in decline presently.



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