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Azaleas Add Beauty to Spring Landscape

The Democrat Reporter of Linden, Alabama

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Alabama Cooperative Extension News

This is the time of year we get lots of questions about azaleas. Maybe this column will answer some of them.

Mulching is very important to azalea culture because it keeps the soil from drying out too fast. Pine straw is an excellent mulch and is usually easy to get. Slightly rotted tree leaves can also be used. Avoid using black plastic to mulch azaleas, but landscape fabrics are acceptable as those materials allow better air penetration into the soil than black plastic. Spread the mulch out beyond the outer leaves of the plants. After settling, mulch should be 2 to 3 inches deep.

Azaleas must be watered during dry periods. September and October are especially important times to supply water. A good mulch helps to reduce the amount of water you will need to use as well as the number of times you have to water. If a mulch is used, a heavy watering once a week should be enough during dry periods.

A big problem in azalea culture is over fertilizing, especially with phosphorus. Too much fertilizer injures the plants and may even cause them to die. Be particularly careful with small plants. Use no more than 1 teaspoon of fertilizer at a time on plants of less than 12 inches tall. For larger plants, 1 heaping tablespoon per foot of height is the best measurement. Scatter the fertilizer under the plant on top of the mulch. It is better to make a light application after blooming and another in July than to apply all the recommended amount at one time.

The best way to avoid over fertilizing is to have your soil tested every two or three years and follow the recommendations. If you don't have a soil test, use an all-purpose fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 12-6-6 on soils with medium or low fertility. Some special azalea camellia formulations cater to the acid soil requirements of these plants with part of the plant nutrients in a slow release form.

Azaleas can be pruned without damaging the plant and without interfering with future flower production. Prune your azaleas after they bloom in the spring and before June 1. Pruning after July may reduce next year's flower production. Cut out the limbs that have grown out of the'main body of the plant. Do not shear unless your intention is to create a formal hedge, espalier, or topiary plant.

Azaleas often become too large for the space they occupy. especially the Indian azaleas, when used as a foundation plant around a home. If this happens. cut back the large plants to 6 to 12 inches above the ground-shortly after blooming. When new growth buds appear on the stem, the new steam and leaves will grow very fast. Be sure to keep the soil moist lor several days after severe pruning.



Copyright 2012 The Democrat Reporter, Linden, Alabama. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: March 29, 2012



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