Planting Native Azaleas
The most common reason that new plants die after being planted in the landscape is incorrect planting and failure to establish. Taking some extra time at planting will set you and your new plants up for success for years to come.
Deciduous azaleas are most commonly understory plants. Planting them under trees where they receive dappled shade is ideal in most cases. In northern areas where the sun is less intense, deciduous azaleas can tolerate more sun. In southern areas and in warmer regions of a plant’s native range, the plants will require more shade – especially in the afternoon when the sun is most intense. Morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal in southern areas. These plants need sun to make flower buds, so the more sun a plant gets, the more flowers it will produce. Established plants that aren’t flowering well but are otherwise healthy often are in deep shade locations.
Deciduous azaleas are in the Ericaceae family and grow best when soil pH is acidic. A soil pH of 5-5.5 is usually best. While it is possible to change a soil’s pH, it is difficult to keep it low if it’s not naturally acidic.
The ideal soil for deciduous azaleas is high in organic matter and drains well (not clay). To improve soil and speed up establishment, add some compost or soil conditioner (aged pine bark fines) into the hole at planting.
Good root to soil contact is essential for plants to get established quickly. We suggest shaking off as much of the nursery substrate that comes with your plant as possible and mixing it in with the soil in the planting hole.
Letting leaves remain in the fall is a good way to keep roots cool and let nutrients return to the plant. Mulching with pine bark or needles is also beneficial. Keep mulch pulled away from the base of the plant and topdress periodically to maintain a 2-3” layer.
Your deciduous azaleas will need to be watered at least every week if there isn’t regular rainfall. The best way to see if your plant needs water is to stick your finger in the rootball. Don’t wait for leaves to wilt before watering.