How to Grow Azaleas

Growing Tips and Varieties

By George and Becky Lohmiller
April 17, 2018
Pink Azalea Flowers

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. Here are a few tips for growing azaleas in your garden!

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. Read more in our Mulching Guide.
  • 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.

Azalea bush

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 include the white-blooming sweet azalea (R. arborescens), a deciduous plant that can reach 20 feet tall.
  • Weeping azaleas, such as ‘Pink Cascade’.

Azalea flowers

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.

“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 more information on how to plant and care for these gorgeous shrubs.

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Reader Comments

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shade-loving azaleas?

Are there any azaleas that grow about 4' tall and can survive in a shady wind-protected area?

Azalea Recommendations

We would recommend visiting the website of the American Rhododendron Society. They have a wonderful search feature that allows you to input the characteristics you’re looking for and find an azalea or rhododendron that fits your garden: https://www.rhododendron.org/search_intro.asp

Dwarf Azalea

Suzanne O'Rourke's picture in your article is the one I've been trying to locate for years! It's a dwarf variety a European gardener planted in our yard decades ago! Any chance someone knows its botanical name? Thanks. silvergirl

fading bloom color

We have an azalea that is 50 years old it was always bright yellow, we remodeled and moved it it has come back quite nice moved it 10 ears ago has taken awhile to come back to full bloom but now the blooms are very pale in color. Is there something I should add to brighten the color of the bloom?

flower color

We can’t be absolutely certain but many “problems” stem from poor soil (assuming other matters are the same, e.g. sunlight). Per above, make sure you

  • 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. Read more in our Mulching Guide.
  • Fertilizer isn’t needed. The decaying mulch will provide all of the nutrients that azaleas need.

Hope this helps!

azaleas

hi, i have azaleas that are over 50 years old , I want to cut them back maybe a foot tall, how should I do so, i want to keep them, they still look very beautiful, but over grown and to high for the front of the house,

pruning pointers

The Editors's picture

Azaleas are generally treated like rhododendrons. Both are generally pruned after flowering, which would be in spring. However, you can remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches at any time. To induce growth from roots, snip branches from weak, leggy plants. We would advise waiting until spring (which, depending on where you reside could be a different time; North Carolina Cooperative Extension, for ex., suggests that February would be the right time. To find the Coop Ext service nearest you, click here: https://www.almanac.com/content/cooperative-extension-services ).

Cutting back to a foot or so should not be a problem. Keep the soil moist afterward and some sources recommend fertilizing with a high-nitrogen (leaf-promoting) fertilizer, such as a 12-6-6.

Rust spots on azalea leaves

I have one new and one established azalea that are planted about 20 feet apart. The older one had been doing well until this year when the leaves developed rust spots and holes. There also might be a slight whitetish appearing color on the leaves. There were only a few blooms on it this Spring despite the fact that I applied the regular azalea fertilize at the recommended time. Any ideas? The new one is beginning to look like the older one.

Azaleas

I have azaleas in my back yard that blooms after the ones in spring,they are in full bloom now, and have two different colors of flowers on them. I can't remember where I bought them, would love to have some more.

No leaves, No flowers

I planted two azaleas last spring and they seemed to have been doing well. Well so far this year there has not been any leaves or flowers. Should I wait to see what happens or should I pull them up because most likely they're dead?

Azalea |Blooming

I purchased and planted some azaleas that had blooms. After planting the blooms withered and fell off but the greenery is doing fine. Will they bloom again this year or will I have to wait till next year?

Azalea Blooms

While they could bloom again this year, it’s more likely that they’ll spend the rest of this season settling into place and growing out their roots. By next year, they will be well established and should bloom without issue!

do I need to dead head azaleas THAT were planted 2 weeks ago?

They were beautiful 2 weeks ago now they look terrible. I would appreciate any information.

Replant?

I have been reading and it seems that I may have planted my azaleas slightly incorrectly. I didn't score the roots, although they weren't root bounds. I didn't break up that root ball at all. We also have some clay and I did mix in some sand where I though the clay was a bit more then they would like, but should dig them and add a larger amount of compost to the holes?
Thank you!

Black Mold/Fungus on Leaves

Two years ago, we bought three 5-gallon Azaleas (non-deciduous) and planted them in the from of our house using Raised Potting Soil containing lots of wood material and covered the surface with Gromulch. They did well. They were green and full of leaves all year long. In Fall last year, one bush started to get a black mold/fungus on its leaves. The leaves eventually fell off, leaving bear branches exposed. The condition spread to the other two bushes. Virtually all the leaves of the plants dropped off. However, I used Neem Oil to treat the plants and within a few months, new growth emerged. They now are back to their former glory. What mold/fungus infected them? What caused it? How can we avoid it?

Sooty Mold

It sounds like your azaleas had something called sooty mold, which tends to grow on the sugary residue (a.k.a. honeydew) left by aphids, scale insects, or whiteflies. The pests leave behind a sweet secretion as they feed on the azalea leaves, which is the perfect substance for sooty mold to grow on. The good news is that the sooty mold shouldn’t come back as long as you can keep the pest populations under control. Neem oil is effective on the mold-causing pests—follow the instructions on the packaging to know when to apply it again. It also wouldn’t hurt to do a manual sweep of the plants once a week or so, just to check for (and squish) any invaders. Mix 1 Tbsp dish soap (NOT dishwasher detergent) in 1 gallon of water and spray it on infected leaves; this will kill the pests. Wipe with a paper towel afterwards.

Encore Azaleas

These azaleas bloom Spring until into fall, however, they seem to needmore sun than other azaleas. What can you tell me about these?
Thank you

Unusual azalea bloom

My mother gave me an azalea that had an unusual bloom. It was white in the center and a fairly deep purple for the outer part of the bloom. I had to move before I could get any cuttings from it and haven't been able to find another one or anything close . Do you know what variety it could have been?

what's that plant?

Did you ask your mother where she got it? If it’s a nursery, the folks there may be able to tell you. We have no way of knowing, given the variations of purple different azaleas might display.

azalea

i bought 6' azalea bush from the flower shop in Yorktown, Va back 2016 it was pink. i planted in the back yard and it was growing so pretty. i took care of it. than i moved it to the front yard. than i wanted 2 of them so i cut it in half roots and all. planted them they were doing well now it looks like the leaves are turning red or purple. it don't look dead. i mulched it . is it going to turn green again and produces flowers. just let me know. thank you so much.

dividing an azalea

Azaleas, no matter what their size, are tree-like shrubs. You can not divide them as you might a plant like, say, a hosta. Just as you can not cut a tree trunk in half and expect each piece to grow (they will not), this doesn’t work. Tree-like shrubs are usually propagated by seeds, cuttings (using root powder on a piece of stem; note: not root), or layering (encouraging a stem that is attached to the mother plant to set roots by bending a lower branch to the ground and covering part of it with soil, leaving the last 6 to 12 inches above the soil; often this is held in place with a stake). It’s probably not going to make it.

Azaleas;

my comment is: When a tree shrub is planted and is doing well; best bet is to leave the Plant in the location; You might try putting the shrubs root together as one tree; then replanting this in either one of the places where the shrub did well; if not; buy another; wherever you plant the Azalea; do not relocate to another area; water well;

Azalea plant just received and appears to be dying.

I just received an azalea plant from our daughter and family for Christmas and it appears to be dying. I have only had it for 4 days. The leaves are falling and the blossoms are wilting. Is there anything I should be doing to help it survive. I have watered it just a little. Help!

dying azalea

The Editors's picture

Honestly, our best advice is to contact the source. Find out where your daughter bought it (casting no aspersions on your daughter here) and see if the vendor will replace it—even if it was sent mail order. (The circumstances of shipping—packing, handling, etc.—could have taken a toll, too.) Tell the vendor of its condition and your disappointment. They might replace or refund it (guessing here), but they should know that it didn’t live up to expectation.

It was probably forced to bloom, and like jet lag on the human psyche, forcing can throw a plant off its natural cycle.

It sounds dry; water is good. Set the pot in a inch of water so the roots soak up moisture from the bottom. Refill the plant holder until the soil is moist—but not saturated or soaked—throughout. Then put the plant in a cool, dark place. It’s impossible to know at this time how/if it will make it through the winter to bloom again in spring.

Bloom-A-Thon Azaleas

I've heard that Boom-A- Thon azaleas bloom a lot longer than most traditional azaleas,what can you tell me about them? I'm looking to buy some and plant them in my backyard,I live in zone 7,so they should do very well in my area,since I live in the deep south.

new azaleas

The Editors's picture

The variety of hybrid choices of some plants is astounding (think hydrangea), and your comment suggests the hybridizers are targeting azaleas now. We have no direct experience with this new one and would only be able to share comments from nurseries that you, too, would find by searching the plant name. Before you buy, talk to people at a nursery in person ideally or on the phone and tell them as much as you can about your setting and conditions and ask any questoins that come into your head re the plants particulars needs and possible challenges. Ask, too, if there is a refund/replacement policy … just in case.

Azaleas in Raised Bed Not Doing Well

I have a raised bed with azaleas under a huge tree that I put in about 10 years ago. For the first five years, the azaleas were doing great. My neighbors planted two small cedar trees under the big tree which have grown pretty tall. I tried to put a couple of other plants in the bed but can't dig through the hairlike roots that are throughout the bed. Are the hairlike roots from the cedar trees causing my azaleas to not bloom and lose leaves? Is it okay to till the soil between the azaleas to break up the hairlike roots from the cedars?

The root of the matter

The Editors's picture

This must be some big tree you’ve got! And that may be the root of the problem. Your azaleas probably did fine until the tree consumed the space under them and over them (blocking the light; azaleas need some sun). We can’t be certain whether the tree roots are from the cedar or from your (anonymous) tree; it’s probably a combination of all the trees. Honestly, it doesn’t sound like tilling will make much difference. Although we have no more specifics of the situation, we surmise that the azaleas can not be salvaged in the present location.

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