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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The problem might be that

The Editors's picture

The problem might be that your plant is in shock, from transporting it to its new home. Or, it could be receiving too much water, not enough light, and/or be suffering from cold/hot drafts.

For shock, provide the best conditions possible (see below), and wait for the plant to recover--it usually will.

You might have a florist azalea, which are bred as houseplants. These can exhibit leaf drop if they receive too much water (or too little, which doesn't seem to be the case here). With too much water, the roots will begin to rot, which causes leaves to drop. Be sure that you are letting the water drain between waterings; remove any foil or other wrapping that's around the pot, so that it is not sitting in a puddle of water. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not saturated.

Also be sure that the plant is away from cold or hot drafts, which can also stress the plant. A cool (not cold), bright location in indirect light is ideal in winter, away from heat registers and drafty windows/doors. Mist the plant every so often to maintain a humid environment.

For more information about indoor azalea care, see this advice from the Azalea Society of America:

To check the acidity of the soil, you can purchase a soil pH kit from a local nursery. Aim for a soil pH of about 5.0 to 5.5.

Hope this helps!

I have an Azalea bush that I

I have an Azalea bush that I got last Easter ... it bloomed until November in the pot on the sunporch and I didn't transplant it to the garden. Now it's dead and won't bloom. I still have it in the pot. One branch is starting to come back and has green leaves. Should I plant it in the ground and see what happens???

If it was a florist azalea,

The Editors's picture

If it was a florist azalea, first make sure that it is hardy in your area before planting outside. You can check the Azalea Society of America web site for more information:
As for its dying back and then showing signs of life, I’d say that it would be worth continuing to care for it and see what happens. Perhaps, though, allow it to leaf out a bit more before stressing the plant and putting it outside or repotting (if needed). Keep in mind that some azaleas are deciduous and will go dormant over winter. If this is the case with your azalea, it will come back totally, given proper care, for the growing season. If some of the plant has been damaged, and it is clear that certain stems have died, then you can prune them back to the base (trunk), or to the first healthy-looking bud along on the stem. If there is any green in the inside of the twig, just under the bark, then there is still life there.
Azaleas prefer moderate temperatures (although there are some exceptions), and moist but not wet soil. It’s possible that the heat from a sunporch may have stressed it, if it was a variety that does not tolerate heat well (above 86F for a prolonged period can damage them). Many prefer at least partial shade. Here is more information on the ideal conditions for azaleas:
If it is OK for the azalea to be planted outdoors, and it is already hot in your area, then choose a cloudy day, after a rain, or in early morning/late evening, to avoid stressing the plant as much.
As another option, bring your azalea to a knowledgeable nursery for them to make a diagnosis. It’s possible that it is only just breaking winter dormancy and all will be well. Hope this helps!

Hi i mite be months late but

Hi i mite be months late but i had the same situation... after a major earthquake hit our place my aunt moved out of her place and left her azalea, wen i took it in it was just a dry stem with not a single.leaf..i am not a professional nor do i have much experien e in gardening, my mom used to do it after she pased i am tryng to learn... anyways back to the topic i replanted it...and bears white flowers... :))) i am sure by now yours must have revived and in full bloom... enjoy :)))

I bought two azalias at a

I bought two azalias at a grocery store. The blooms are gone and I was wondering when it is OK to transplant them outside in the Seattle area? How deep do their roots go? and How much sun is too much sun?

If it was a florist azalea,

The Editors's picture

If it was a florist azalea, first make sure that it is hardy in your area before planting outside. You can check the Azalea Society of America web site for more information:

I have two small Azalea

I have two small Azalea bushes that flowered the first year(two years ago). Each year since the blooms and flowers have decreased. what can I do to bring them back? I am not a professional gardener just someone who likes a nice looking yard.

One issue you may have is

The Editors's picture

One issue you may have is poor soil. Azaleas thrive in acidic soil that is ideally pH 4.5–5.5. Azaleas also do not tolerate deep planting, so make sure they are shallow planted. They require lots of moisture, so remember to water your plants regularly. You can also try deadheading (removing the dead flowers from the plant), but be careful not to damage or remove young growth.
I hope this helps!

When is the best time to trim

When is the best time to trim Azaleas. They have gotten way too large. What is the best way to trim them back? How hard can I cut them Back?

Thanks Very much

The best time to prune

The Editors's picture

The best time to prune azaleas is in the spring after flowering. The best way to trim azaleas is deadheading, which is cutting off dead flowers and branches and other damaged or diseased branches. You can also just cut off a few twigs from your plant. Usually azaleas need little pruning and they are only pruned to retain their shape, so I wouldn't cut them back too much. You don't want to damage too many flowers or young growths because then your plants will die.
Good luck!