One of many of the azalea bushes in my backyard now blooming.Suzanne O'Rourke
Known as “The Royalty of the Garden,” azaleas have long been adored for their brightly colored flowers and outstanding form and foliage.
Varieties to Fit Your Landscape
With thousands of varieties, there are azaleas for just about every landscape situation:
- Deciduous varieties are considered the hardiest, many growing as far north as Zone 4. Some, such as the bright-pink roseshell azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum), are even hardy in Zone 3. With few exceptions, most evergreen azaleas are only reliable in Zone 6.
- Low-growing ground cover azaleas such as ‘Joseph Hill’, a bright-red-flowering evergreen that grows only to about a foot.
- Tall varieties such as the white-blooming sweet azalea (R. arborescens), a deciduous plant that can reach 20 feet tall
- Weeping azaleas, such as ‘Pink Cascade’
- And every shape and size of azalea in between!
Credit: Marlene Akeroyd
Late Blooming Varieties
While most azaleas flower in spring, there are varieties that extend the season:
- ‘Flame Creeper’, an orange-flowering ground cover azalea, and ‘Weston’s Lemon Drop’, with peachy-color buds that open to a soft yellow, both flower in late June or July.
- The pink-flowering ‘Sweet September’ is an exceptionally late bloomer.
How to Grow Azaleas
The best time to plant azaleas is in late spring or early fall. Evergreen azaleas do well in partial shade with some wind protection. Deciduous varieties flower more profusely in full sun.
- Provide well-drained, humus rich soil that is slightly acidic (pH 4.5–6).
- Mulch well. Shallow-rooted, azaleas tend to dry out quickly if not mulched. A mulch of oak leaf mold, pine needles, or aged oak, pine, or hemlock sawdust will keep soil acidic and moist.
- Fertilizer isn’t needed. The decaying mulch will provide all of the nutrients that azaleas need.
- Seldom bothered by insects and diseases, azaleas require little care once established, except for watering during dry times.
“The Royalty of the Garden” seems to be a fitting name for this beautiful and majestic plant, but we’ve got a hunch that once your garden is filled with the colors and fragrance of beautiful blooming azaleas, you’ll probably think that it’s you who’s getting the royal treatment.
See our Rhododendron and Azalea Plant Guide for details on how to plant and care for these gorgeous shrubs.