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

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Your azalea needs acidic

The Editors's picture

Your azalea needs acidic well-drained soil (it does not like “wet feet”) and part shade. Add sulfur or iron sulfate to the soil if needed to lower the pH.

I have 4 azaleas plants and

I have 4 azaleas plants and one it flowered the first year n now only branches coming out n not flowering. What can i do to bring it back? rest 3 plants doing ok.

I have a small red azalea

I have a small red azalea that I planted last year. It was fine last year but this year it looks like something is eating it. Some of the branches are brown with dry brown unopened blooms. Other branches/blooms look normal except the blooms have holes in them. We have very acidic soil but it is clay.

Dry buds suggests botrytis.

The Editors's picture

Dry buds suggests botrytis. Are you watering from overhead? Be sure to water at the base. Or, it could be an insect issue called thrips. They can be controlled by spraying the developing buds with Sevin and again 10 days later. We suggest you bring a sample to your cooperative extension or plant nursery for a diagnosis.

I have a azalea I want

I have a azalea I want planted in the north east section of the garden under a deador cedar, but it is blooming now,
would that cause a problem? Im not living in the states, I live in British Columbia

You can transplant azaleas in

The Editors's picture

You can transplant azaleas in early fall when the weather is relatively cool. If you must 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.

I have a very full potted

I have a very full potted pink Azalea plant it had pink flowers on it but now is not blooming. I live in Chicagoland and was wondering if I should bring it in for th winter. Please advise.

A potted azalea, especially a

The Editors's picture

A potted azalea, especially a florist pot, probably won't survive freezing temperatures. You can try putting the pots in a cool place such as a cellar for the winter. Check plants throughout the winter and water thoroughly whenever the soil is dry. Do not fertilize. You do not want this type of plant indoors. The air is too warm and the humidity too low. Bring them back outside as freezing temperatures go away.

my husband and i own a

my husband and i own a landscaping company. in early july we dug nandinas and camillias out of 2 beds at the end of a clients sloping driveway. we put 3 3gal high quality azaleas from a local nursery in each bed. it rained every day for almost a month. a week after the rain stopped the 3 in the right bed are brown. any ideas as to what happened?

Do both beds have the same

The Editors's picture

Do both beds have the same amount of sun? Do both beds have good drainage? It sounds like one bed may have gotten more soaked from the rain than the other.

Our azaleas are on the East

Our azaleas are on the East side of our house and have been fine for eight years now. These are encore azaleas. Recently they appear to be dying on the under side of the plants. They look great from the top but when you pull the branches aside, the leaves are dead.

If you haven't fertilized the

The Editors's picture

If you haven't fertilized the plants for a while apply a liquid fertilizer directly to the foliage and roots. Also make sure that your soil is acidic. Light pruning after they bloom next spring will stimulate growth and flowering.

i have 3 tiny tiny azaleas i

i have 3 tiny tiny azaleas i bought from cottage farms,im having so many issues, i finally just stuck them in the garden i have going down my driveway, they will get ALOT of sun from spring to mid july,then they will only get afternoon/evening sun..they r starting to show signs of doing better, but its late july now. are they going to be ok with that amount of sun next yr?they have only been in the ground since july 18 2013..and i have white marble rocks in that garden,r they going to be ok with that?

Azaleas prefer filtered

The Editors's picture

Azaleas prefer filtered sunlight. Ideally, they get dappled sun in the summer with little or no early morning sun in the winter.  They need sun but not intense, afternoon sun. Perhaps the most important factor is soil preparation. Did you do a soil test before planting? Soil needs have a pH of 4.5 to 6.0--and be moist, well-drained, and well-aerated. Many people find that they need to add amendments that make the soil more acidic. Soil tests are often available for free or a small charge from your local cooperative extension services. The test will tell you what you need to adjust. Fifty percent of the planting medium should be organic material. Finally, azaleas prefer to be set in a place protected from wind. They thrive on the north side of a building or the east side. 

I found the information very

I found the information very helpful. Thank you

I have 5 azalea plants in an

I have 5 azalea plants in an outside gardens surrounding a statue. They seem to be doing well, but the leaves are beginning to turn yellow. Is this natural or is something wrong?

If some leaves are turning

The Editors's picture

If some leaves are turning yellow, do not worry. If most of the leaves are turning yellow, this is often a cue of nitrogen-deficiency. They'll need fertilization. Also, weather can be a factor. These plants not like wet or very dry soils or full sun locations.

My azalea is potted on a

My azalea is potted on a partial covered patio. I have very few leaves and after new leaves appear they start turning black at tips and die off about halfway . Is my soil not acidic enough or too much water. Plant is brought in during winter months

One possibility is soil fungi

The Editors's picture

One possibility is soil fungi (Pythium and/or Phytophthora) which happens with azaleas in poorly drained or wet soil. Make sure the root ball is dried out--and the roots aren't mushy and rotting. Prune out affected areas, and spray with a copper based fungicide.

I have three azaleas, two are

I have three azaleas, two are fine but one is in an area that is getting closer to full sun than I intended, I live in zone 6 am I going to fry my lil guy?

Azaleas grow best in dappled

The Editors's picture

Azaleas grow best in dappled sun in the summer with little or no early morning sun in the winter. They like filtered sunlight. However, some varieties, particularly deciduous azaleas, can handle more sun if they are given enough water. You will probably find that an azalea grown in full sun will have shorter stems, and may have more blooms which will not last as long, and which may fade in a few days. If the leaves show signs of being burned by the sun (round brown spots on the leaf tips and edges) or the blooms fade quickly, you may need to move the plant to a little more shade.

I planted four azaelas in a

I planted four azaelas in a mostly full sun area of my yard. They bloomed last year and I didn't cover them over the winter. We also had a lot of rain and they were sitting in some puddles before it got nice outside. I tried to fertilize them this spring but there is no new growth and the leaves are all red and falling off. Do you think that they are still alive or should I just dig them out?

I have several azaleas and

I have several azaleas and they seem to like where they are planted and bloom profusely...then all the flowers die off at once. Is there a way other than picking off each flower by hand to remove the dead flowers?? I have resorted to paying my grandchildren a penny a flower for removal. The kids are quite young and get bored with this project easily....thanks for any advice.

Can I plant azaleas in a

Can I plant azaleas in a shaded are in Arizona, will they tolerate the summer heat and flower next spring?

Azaleas do require partial

The Editors's picture

Azaleas do require partial sun, so if you plant in an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade, that would be best. Also, azaleas are acidic soil loving plants. You will need to amend the alkaline desert soil with composted cow manure and peat mixed with equal portions of your soil. And for best results, look for a variety that thrives in your zone:

I have a full sun huge back

I have a full sun huge back yard. I have azaleas planted and some moss. I wanted some ideas of plants that bloom at least all summer or longer and comes back with not a lot of effort. I really would like to have 2 butterfly trees I saw on tv but nobody around here seems to know what I am talking about but they have bushes but they look nothing like the trees. So if there is any ideas and if you know where to get the trees pleas tell me?

Ask your local garden centers

The Editors's picture

Ask your local garden centers about the "Butterfly Bush" or "Buddleia davidii" varieties for your area. It is a nice choice that blooms from summer through autumn. See more about how to plant, grow, and care for this plant:

I just bought and planted 12

I just bought and planted 12 azaleas and I. Believe they are planted rite, this is my first time. But the second noight they was in the ground we noticed that we had 3 night of 30degree wheather coming and this the night after a heavy rain. My husband and I covered them all with trash bags and when the morning sun rose I uncovered them. I noticed since some of the blooms was wet when covered that the was frozen but otherwise look good. Is covering them what I should be doing for the next 2 nights? And will the frozen pedals be ok or has that damaged the plant? And also if this is all done rite will they bloom all summer this year, there are lots of fresh greens and new blooms as of now? Please help

Covering your plants

The Editors's picture

Covering your plants overnight to protect them from frost is a good practice. Using trash bags to protect the plants from freeze damage is OK, although it can trap moisture inside that might then freeze on the plant. With trash bags or other plastic, be sure to remove it, as you have done, in the morning before the sun warms the air, or it will get too hot inside the bag and will damage the plant. If you can, it is better to use fabric, such as blankets or sheets, or row covers or burlap (the last two are available at garden nurseries), all of which allow air to circulate but still help to protect the plant from cold.

The frozen petals indicate that those particular flowers are damaged; damaged flower buds may turn brown. If the 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.

Bloom time depends on the type of azalea you have, as well as your location and growing conditions. Some are early bloomers (such as in February and March), others bloom mid-season (such as April through June), and others are late-bloomers (such as in July through September). You might check with the place where you bought your azaleas to find out what type you have and its normal bloom period.

I received an azalea plant

I received an azalea plant from my mother-in-laws funeral about 3 weeks ago, (Nov.28th). I have kept it moist and inside, (we live in N.Ill.).
My problem is that every time I touch it the leaves fall off. What is happening, and what can I do to fix it? How can I check the acidity of the soil?