Come March and April, a beautiful thing happens in the Lowcountry! Yes, the weather is great and the sun is shining, but perhaps one of the most fantastic events is the blooming of the azaleas. Everyone has their favorite color – purple, pink, red or white – and everywhere you go their bushy flowering shrubs dot the roadways and yards of Charlestonians. As these beauties finish off their spring blooms, we’ve got a few tips for caring for your azaleas.
1) Pick your colors – Will you select just one color azalea for your yard or will you choose a wild color variety
that fits nicely with this plant’s “wild” nature? Plan your color selection before you purchase and plant.
2) You can still plant them in spring – While fall is the best time to plant azaleas, giving them time to get established with proper hydration, you can still plant them in spring if you missed fall. Purchase some blooming plants and use the guidelines below to plant in your yard.
3) They need some shade – We know more than a few people who have made the mistake of planting these poor fellows in full sun and sadly watched them wither away. Be sure to plant them – or move them if you have to – in an area that gets neither full sun nor full shade. Under a pine tree is a great spot, because just enough sun can filter through. You’ll also want to keep them out of direct wind.
4) Give them slightly acidic soil – You’ll probably want to test your soil’s pH to make sure it’s ideal for your azaleas. A pH of 4-5.5 is perfect; anything that is too alkaline will cause their leaves to yellow or the plant to die away. If needed, you can lower the pH of your soil by using ammonium sulphate.
5) Use mulch and keep moist – Because azaleas like a moist soil, use mulch, such as pine needles, around the bush to help keep moisture in the soil. Be sure to water the plants during dry periods.
6) Prune them after their spring bloom – If you want to prune them , do so before July, as that is when they begin to develop buds for next spring. Don’t cut back too much, however, just enough to tidy it up. Too much pruning can shock the plant and inhibit next year’s flowering.
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