Experts supply keys to success for azaleas

Allen D. Owings, Young, John, Gill, Daniel J.  |  5/8/2009 6:33:11 PM

News Release Distributed 05/08/09

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Allen Owings and John Young

Summer is rapidly approaching, the time when our evergreen azaleas often have difficulty dealing with our heat and humidity.

Azaleas are a prime example of a plant that needs to be in the right place. Proper cultural practices also are important to the long-term landscape enjoyment of Louisiana’s most popular flowering shrub.

Several practices will improve the landscape performance of azaleas.

– Select a partial-sun to partial-shade location. This area can have 4-6 hours of direct sun daily. Avoid late afternoon sun, especially in the summer months.

– Choose a southern or eastern exposure over a northern or western one.

– Have a soil test for the pH level – don’t guess! We recommend a pH of 5.5.

– Plant azaleas in the fall if possible, followed by winter, spring and summer. Most azaleas are planted in the spring because shoppers can see the various colors, but fall remains the best time.

– Plant so that the top of the root ball is level with or slightly higher than the soil of the bed. Prune roots if needed.

– Don’t crowd plants when planting. Crowded planting limits air circulation and can create conditions more favorable to disease development and azalea lace bug infestation. Know how much the plant will spread for the variety being planted and space them accordingly.

– Fertilize with a slow-release formulation in the spring after blooming is completed.

– Mulch with pine straw or similar material to a depth of 2 inches. Avoid placing mulch in piles around the lower stem of the plant.

– Manage irrigation properly. Azaleas need uniformity in soil moisture – not too dry, not too wet. Avoid overhead irrigation, when practical. Know your irrigation water quality. Poor water quality (high pH, high alkalinity, high sodium) creates problems for azaleas.

– Prune lightly after spring bloom. Pruning for spring-flowering azaleas should be completed by July 4th. Complete pruning for multiseasonal-flowering azaleas within 2-3 weeks after any bloom cycle is completed.

Come to LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (La. Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the new LSU baseball stadium. Go online to Louisiana Yards and Neighborhoods for additional information.

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Editor: Mark Claesgens

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