Azaleas are a beautiful evergreen shrub which provide our Oklahoma gardens with a short but intense burst of color in the spring. One key to having success with Azaleas especially is to plant them properly and in the right soil. They prefer a more acidic soil pH, with a good amount of peat moss and pine mulch worked into the soil. They’ll grow best in straight peat moss in fact, which provides good drainage and low pH levels.
After the blooms are done, which is typically late May, it’s a good time for two important practices to help them mature properly.
- Pruning. Especially on older plants, prune a few weeks after the blooms are gone. Don’t wait until later in the summer, and the buds for next year will have been set, and you’ll be removing those, leading to poor flowering next spring. Use sharp hand shears to prune off individual stems that are too long, or running into other plants. Some azaleas can become quite large, so major pruning may be needed on these if they become too large.
- Fertilization. Again, after the blooms are done, is the best time to apply fertilizer. We use a custom 18-10-10 at LawnAmerica, which has mainly slow-release nitrogen, some extra sulfur to help lower pH, phosphorus and potassium, organic content, and some sytstemic insecticide mixed in to help prevent lacebug damage during the summer. Don’t overapply fertilizer, and water in well, following label instructions. And don’t fertilize after August 1st… the earlier the better.
Don’t neglect irrigation during hot summers also. I like to apply a fresh layer of pecan shell mulch each spring also to the beds, which helps conserve soil moisture and helps keep soil pH levels low. As these decompose, it adds some good organic matter to the shrub bed also.
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