A-to-Z Challenge, garden

A is for Azalea

As a child, I remember stalking the neighborhoods while riding in the car with my dad, looking at the first blooms of the season, noting how lovely (or not) the azaleas were this year.  Strong, deep pink puffs of lovely on each neighbor’s lawn.  As though the strength of the winter had somehow affected how beautiful the blooms would be.  Was it actually all Mother Nature’s doing?  Or perhaps the length of time since we seemed to have seen the final blooms of fall had something to do with it.

Dad always had the bright pink varieties, and when I started planting at our first home, I loved the pale pink.

 

 

My white azaleas came with the house.  Two really fine specimens that don’t seem to care if I forget to prune them, or if I do remember to prune them but at the wrong time.  Last year, I did get to pruning them right after they bloomed, which is the recommended time to prune.  The blooms for the following year are set a few weeks after the blossoms fall, so it’s best to prune shortly after the blossoms have fallen.

I have to tell you, though, that the years I did wait until even the end of summer did not ruin a great show come spring.  It may be that my specimens are just so big that there are layers of potential blooms, and I only cut off the top layer.  I really don’t know, but I have never had a disappointing azalea show.

There’s so much that actually goes into a “good year” for the azaleas.  Let’s explore!

Weather

Azaleas do best in warmer temperatures.  I live in Zone 6a, and the azaleas do very will even our hard winters.  They prefer part sun rather than direct sun, but mine do well on my west-facing front border.  They are situated very close to the house, so that could be the reason they survive our winter.  Just know that they need that part sun in order to bloom.

Soil

Azaleas love an acidic soil.  A good mulch of shredded pine bark will naturally seep acid into the soil.  And if you like to add a boost, some Holly-Tone will always be a good addition.  Wait until after the flowers bloom, otherwise you will be feeding and encouraging the greenery.  Keep the mulch about 8 inches from the base of the plant.

Pruning

As mentioned above, any necessary pruning should be done shortly after the flowers have dropped.   Don’t risk cutting off next year’s flowers by waiting until much after 2-3 weeks.  Not only will you cut off next year’s flowers, you risk stressing the plant with any midsummer trimming.  When the flowers start wilting and turning brown, that’s the perfect time to prune.

 

Propagation

Those new sprouting stems that show up after the blooming period are perfect to cut for startings.  Strip a few of the bottom leaves off and put the stem in a glass of water.  Keep the node from where the leaves were under water for a few weeks and you should have a nice rooted stem.

My large azaleas have some smaller branches underneath that sort of lay on the soil, and those branches root without my even trying.

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Here’s to a month of Blogging from A to Z! 

Am I up to this challenge?  Stay tuned!

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