One of my favorite flowering ornamental shrubs is the azalea. When the azaleas in my yard are in full bloom it looks like a blanket on flowers has been laid over the bushes.
Because of their adaptability, azaleas are one of the most popular shrubs in Georgia. Azaleas are mostly associated with spring, but there are some varieties that bloom in the summer and fall as well. Azaleas can be evergreen or deciduous. Evergreens maintain their leaves throughout the winter, while deciduous lose their leaves in the fall. Azaleas can also be native or an introduced cultivar.
Azaleas are often described by their flower forms. Deciduous azaleas usually have a tubular flower with long stamens. Evergreens can have a wide variety of flower forms. Evergreen flowers can be single, semi-double, double, single hose-in-hose, semi-double hose-in-hose or double hose-in-hose. The single flower is the most common form and consists of five or more petals. The double flower is similar to the single, but its stamens have been transformed into petals. The hose-in-hose form consists of two flowers that look like they have been laid on top of one another. The flower petals of an azalea can be strap-like, star-shaped, spider like or round. They come in a wide variety of colors and can be a solid color, flecked or have a bordered with a different color.
When selecting azaleas be aware of cold hardness zones. Select varieties that are adapted to the zone where you live. Because azaleas can bloom at different times of the year, selecting an assortment can extend the flowering season up to eight months. Azaleas range in size from three feet to 20 feet. Be sure to look for healthy transplants that are sturdy, well-branched and free of diseases and insects. Check the roots to see if they are healthy. Healthy roots will be light brown. Because azaleas come in so many shapes, sizes and colors, make a landscape plan before purchasing.
Azaleas can be planted any time of the year as long as adequate water is supplied, but like most shrubs, it is best to plant azaleas in the fall for less stress on the transplant. Azaleas need moist, well-drained soils with high levels of organic matter. They also need to be planted in an area with partial shade. Azaleas planted under trees will compete with the trees for moisture and nutrients. A place that receives morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal. Avoid planting azaleas in low, wet areas. I have seen many azaleas die from the area staying too wet. Azaleas prefer an acidic soil ranging from 4.5-6.
Azaleas should be planted with organic matter and natural soils backfilled into the hole. Because azaleas are shallow rooted, the need little fertilizer. Mulching can be beneficial to help hold moisture and add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. The best time to prune azaleas is after they bloom. Azaleas are prone to a variety of insects and diseases. If you are concerned about the health of your azaleas, please contact your extension office.
DATES TO REMEMBER
Thursday-Saturday: Spring Plant Sale, State Farmers Market, Macon
Saturday: Cloverleaf Project Achievement, Warner Robins
March 23: Area Soybean Production Meeting, Sumter County Extension Office, noon
April 1-2: Spring Home and Garden Show, Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, Perry
May 3: Propagation Class, Perry 6-8 p.m.
May 12: Pollinators Class, Perry 6-8 p.m.
For more information, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or visit the office at 801 Main St., Perry. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Visit www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston for more news about your local Extension office.