Azalea flowers add instant color to patios and verandas, but sometimes home gardeners feel the plants are too tough to grow. Here's some information on azalea and how to grow them in containers.
Types Of Azaleas
There are two types of azaleas, evergreen and deciduous. Evergreen azalea will maintain some of their leaves throughout the year, while deciduous azalea shed their foliage in winter. Most container-grown azalea are of the evergreen variety. Deciduous types are best suited for shrubs.
Azaleas are typed according to bloom time, with early-blooming (mid-February through March), mid-season (late April and May), and late-blooming (June through October).
Evergreen azaleas have numerous flower forms including single, semi-double, double and three types of hose-in-hose (two flower forms that look like they’re inserted into each other). Wide petal shapes also exist: star, round, sector, margins/borders, flecked/striped, red self and strap-like.
Step 1 – Choose The Right Location
Container-grown azalea plants, just like those set into the soil outdoors, do best in an area that gets morning sun and bright, filtered light the rest of the day. While they may be able to tolerate full sun, their colors will bleach out. The azalea doesn’t like full shade either.
Choose a spot that’s out of damaging wind and offers protection from western exposures.
Step 2 – Use Proper Soil Mix
Using a soil mix with peat moss and vermiculite will give the azalea plant a head start. To provide an even better support medium, use an equal part of peat, vermiculite, potting soil and coarse sand.
Step 3 – Examine Root Ball
Remove the azalea plant from the nursery container and examine the roots. If they are pot-bound or have a dense, fibrous mat of roots, they need to be loosened up. Use a knife to make 2-inch deep vertical cuts all around the root ball, about 3 to 6 cuts. Then, loosen the roots with fingers and pull them gently outward. If not pot-bound, don’t score the root ball, but still loosen up the roots. This gives them a better head start in the new container.
Step 4 – Plant In Large Enough Container
Be sure to plant the azalea in a container that will be large enough to permit sufficient growth. Dig a hole that is wider than the rootball. Place in the soil mixture shallowly, making sure to leave roots plenty of room to grow. If the azalea is planted too deep, it can result in crown rot and quickly kill the plant. Firmly pack the soil around the roots.
Step 5 – Apply Mulch
Giving the container azalea flower a light coating of mulch will help it retain moisture during the hot summer months.
Step 6 - Water Immediately
As soon as the azalea is in the new container, water it deeply and well. Let the water absorb slowly into the soil to avoid run-off. With such shallow roots, azaleas show stress from lack of moisture quickly, so be sure to keep them watered regularly, especially when the soil surface is dry.
Step 7 – Fertilize Monthly
Feed azalea plants an acid fertilizer specifically for rhododendrons, azaleas and camelias. Do this at new growth in spring, at bloom time and monthly through August.
By following these simple steps, container-grown azalea flowers will produce delightful splashes of color throughout the growing season, with little or no fuss.