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.


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

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.


Thank you for the prompt response. I have no idea what the big tree is - it was in place when we bought the land. The azaleas get shade in the morning and sun in the afternoon which is probably a problem too. I doubt that tilling the ground around the azaleas will help but I did it today anyway and was careful to stay away from the azaleas as far as possible. I got a huge pile of hairy roots out of the bed. Hopefully it will help for a little while anyway. If not, I'll watch the azaleas slowly die. I read in a gardening blog that digging a 12-18" trench and putting metal roofing in it will deter the roots. I might try that next year. Thanks so much again for your advice.

When will Pink Ruffle azaleas bloom in 2018?

Would love to have a backyard wedding in the spring. Any predictions on when the Pink Ruffle will bloom?

bloom time?

The Editors's picture

This plant is hardy in zones 7 to 9, and generally blooms in mid-spring, which could mean a little before mid or a little after mid season, too. Bear in mind that getting more specific about the bloom time involves local weather conditions as well as the plants’ growing conditions (aka microclimate) as well as a given zone.

azaleas in AZ

Just received an Azalea plant for Mother's Day. Now what? How often do I water, when should I transplant it, and can I plant it outside, if so, when would be best. PHX gets tooooo hot in the summer for plants.

Azalea in Arizona

The Editors's picture

To a certain extent, care of your azalea will depend on which planting zone you are in; the terrain in AZ varies a lot, so you should look at this map to see where are in it:

With that in mind, you can find some care advice here, based on zones:

And then there is your local cooperative extension service; they may have some better advice, being right in your immediate area. Find your state here and click on your state.

We found a page from the AZ cooperative extension that has some good information: but it would be best if you connect directly with a local expert (at the coop).

Pink double ruffle azaleas

Ready to replant Pink Double Ruffle Azaleas. Where can I purchase?

Replanting a Japanese azalea from a pot to my garden

Hi i have a Japanese azalea which i have had for two years now, its currently in a pot but seems alot bigger this year. Its currently in flower & i was wondering if i can move it & replant it in my garden now or should i wait till its finished flowering? Thanks

transplanting azaleas

The Editors's picture

It is best to transplant azaleas in early fall when the weather is relatively cool. If you really want to transplant in warm weather, choose an overcast day, or a day or so after it has rained (which cools the soil), or earlier or later in the day. The main challenge with transplanting azaleas is to get all of the roots so very wide (versus deep) to get every root to reduce the stress on the plant.


Azaleas are beautiful

potted azalea

Mom received an Azalea plant for a gift and I potted it because I'm in Colorado Springs and we have frost already. (October) Came in 6" pot and transferred to 10" for the winter. It's losing leaves (still green), is that okay? What's best for this plant until next Spring when I can plant it? Its a pink one...not sure which variation. Has been in pot 2 weeks max.

Overwintering Potted Azaleas

The Editors's picture

Hi Jesse,

Azaleas need to go dormant in winter, which means they should be outside rather than kept inside as a potted plant. If yours is inside, give it a good watering, then add a thick layer of mulch to the pot and find a protected spot outside for it, perhaps on a table or chair, tucked up against the house or a shed. Given its young age, you might also consider wrapping the pot and plant loosely in burlap for added wind and cold protection. As for the dropping leaves–it could be a deciduous variety.


Azalea buds won't open

I have a Kimberly Double Pink that I've had for over 10 years, I live in the central Illinois. This year, the plant was covered in buds that didn't open. The buds dried up and are still on the plant, it's July. It's planted on the north side on the house.

Azalea failure

The Editors's picture

Hi, Mary, This is one of those situations where you have to figure just because it worked for years doesn’t mean it will keep working. There are several reason why azaleas fail to bloom:

• lack of moisture during late spring/summer (note, you write that the buds dried up…so this makes some sense)

• less than 3 hours of sunlight (has a larger tree, shrub, or new building reduced its exposure ot the sun? Remember the north side is the least sunny side, so a little more shade could make a difference betw blooming and not.)

• poor nutrition (have you amended the soil in 10 years? Add rich compost/organic matter and some aged manure—in the fall or not at all!—to improve conditions, especially if you have not done it in a while. Oh, and water.)

If any of this sounds familiar, you know what you have to do!

We hope this helps!

Azalea buds won't open

Thank you for responding to my question on Kimberly double pink azalea. I was thinking of moving the plant to a different location, more sunlight. I've tried the other the things you mentioned.


My Azales have a white film on all of the leaves. What is going on? I live in East Texas small town about 120 miles north of HoustonTexas. Every year I have exceptionally large white blooms on one and pink blooms on the other on the other side of the house.They had very few bloosm this year. these azaleas are probably 15-20 years old. What is this and how can I treat them?

Dying azaleas

To whom it may concern,

I currently reside in Upland, California. (12) months ago I had my yard landscaped (Japanese Garden theme), 5 gallon George Taber Azaleas were placed through-out the yard. Pete-moss was used as back fill. Beautiful flowering this past spring. Light pruned recently.

Recently, I've noticed leaves on several azaleas have browned. Starting at the leave tip, working towards the base of the leave, eventually completely browning the leave, and killing. as leaves brown, they are dry and crispy. I've lost several complete azaleas now, and don't know what is causing them to dye.

No fungus or signs of any bug on the leaves. Watering cycle is every other day. Azaleas which have died off, have been located in partial and full sun areas of my yard.

Can you offer any advise what I can do to prevent further plants dying off ?


My azaleas is pink in color and i have had it for 4 or 5 years it isn't very big just a trunk with a couple bare branches from each side . It had other years had a couple pink flowers but now it is bare just a bit of green on the tip of one of the branches . I am wondering if it is too late to be saved? It has been planted on the North West side of the house out on a lawn that gets lots of sun . I have been wondering what has went wrong is it being in too much sun. I am located in Canada .

Not knowing what type of

The Editors's picture

Not knowing what type of azalea you  have it’s a bit hard to give advice. There are varieties that grow well in full sun. Most azaleas have shallow roots and benefit from a layer of mulch to prevent the roots to dry out. Also make sure to water well when the weather is hot. You may also want to add some compost around the plant.

Azalea Bush

I am writing from East London in England. I have had an azalea bush in my garden for nearly 16 years, it was in a container pot prior to that when I moved house. It has been beautiful and flowers bright pink every May and has grown considerably. Unfortunately, both last year and this, it looks as if it is about to flower and, within days, the flowers look to have dried up and died. It looks as if it has finished flowering already after only a few days. I am really upset as this is a focal point of my garden, just outside the patio doors and has always been highly praised by visitors. What do you think is the problem

Flowers have died

Do i need to trim back or just cut flowers off

Cut Some Slack

The Editors's picture

Hi, Vick: Between now and July is the time to do your annual light pruning. Trim back a few inches or more where you feel the bush may be too thick, and otherwise shape it up a little so that new growth will start where you want it. In any event, don’t remove more than a quarter or so of your plant. Good luck and thanks for asking!

Azalea with little foliage

My encore azaleas are 3 years old. I live in Alabama. They are full of beautiful, coral blooms, but have very little green foliage. What can I do to promote a fuller, healthier looking shrub with more green leaves instead of the scraggly stems I have now?

Many azaleas produce flower

The Editors's picture

Many azaleas produce flower before they open their leaves and some never have many leaves. Make sure your bushes get as much sun as possible and dig some compost or aged manure into the soil around the bushes.

Azaleas in cold weather damaged

Our temps unexpectedly went to 30degrees and we did not cover them. The next morning all the blooms look dead. Can we do anything or are they a total loss?

Yes, the flowers are damaged.

The Editors's picture

Yes, the flowers are damaged. If other buds look OK, then those should bloom fine, and more buds may develop later. The plant itself should be OK; if you see dead, brown or black areas or splitting along some branches, you can prune the dead branches back to healthy wood, just after the plant has finished blooming.

Droopy lookiing flowers and leaves

Purchased my plant at Smith's grocery...nice selection. Replanted from plastic container to cement container outside and place on our covered porch. Weather about 65. Watered etc. It began to droop after about five days. Could it be too cold, not enough sun or just adjusting to replanting. IAny advice for us? Read up on Azalea care as suggested. Thanks much.

length of time for growth

4 azaleas and one hydrangea were planted as a Mother's Day gift in May. My question is how much growth should be on them in 3 months also I put dead pine needles around them, should I have used green needles. They are from a nursery. Thank you