How to Grow Azaleas

Growing Tips and Varieties

George and Becky Lohmiller
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 best time to prune

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!

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