Gardening Tips ~
Planting Azaleas and Rhododendrons
Azaleas and Rhododendrons are part of a family of plants known as ericaceous
plants. These include in addition to Azaleas and Rhododendrons other
plants such as Pieris (Andromeda), the Heaths and Heathers, and Kalmia
(Mountain Laurel). For the sake of discussion, let's include Hollies
here, too. These are plants that prefer well drained, well aerated,
acidic (or sour) soils. They really don't like hot southern summer sun,
or the winter sun. So what do folks do? Many people purchase an Azalea
(because they are pretty when they bloom). They dig a hole in this heavy,
poorly drained ground that exists around Southern Adams County . Often
they plant it on the hot side of the house (south), water it a little,
fill in some soil, and that's it. As the season progresses, the plant
turns yellow, gets spindly, and eventually dies. The main problem here
is wrong soil, planted in the wrong place.
Here are our tips for planting these types of plants in the soil
we have in this area:
(1.) Site the plant on the east side (morning side) of the house.
That way the plant receives the more gentle, less intense, morning sun.
By noon, or shortly after noon, the house shades the plant. If the south
side of your home is in full hot sun, our advice would be to keep that
area for something else. If the south side is in dappled shade, this
is not a problem.
(2.) Now the important part. When you dig the planting hole, make it
more shallow than deep. Make it more saucer-like than cup-like. The
material you remove from the hole should be mixed about half and half
with peat moss to help improve the aeration. It is the heavy, tightly
packed soils that these plants simply do not like. It suffocates the
roots. Therefore, amend yoursoil with generous amounts of peat moss.
(Peat Moss is also somewhat acidic, and they prefer that, too.)
(3.) Now, when you actually plant the plant, remove the plant from the
container. (We have heard horror stories about people who find plants
that someone planted container and all!) Position the plant so that
the top of the soil ball is abovethe existing ground level. Fix it so
that the ground tapers away from the plant. This helps the drainage.
( 4). A little note: When you remove the plant from the container observe
the soil ball. If it is all rootbound - just a mass of roots - use a
utility knife and slice the roots about a quarter of an inch deep. These
fresh cuts will provide a place for root cells to start dividing and
new roots will form.
(5.) Fill in around the plant with a little bit of that nice mixture
of soil and peat moss that you prepared in Step 2. Add water. Allow
the water to soak in, then add the rest of the soil-peat moss mix. Firm
it down with your hands. Mulch with a good grade of aged mulch. Don't
use fresh mulch. Don't pile the mulch up around the main stem of the
(6.) If there is no rain, water every other day in the beginning for
about a week. Then ease off to once, or twice a week for a week or so.
Then water as needed. Use you judgment. Feel down around the plant.
If it is soggy wet, you are watering too much. If it is punk dry water
7. Fertilizing. Azaleas and Rhododendrons are light feeders. Go easy
on the high Nitrogen fertilizer. A general rule always is to fertilize
lightly after they are finished blooming. Some gardeners prefer the
slow release type fertilizers, and others prefer the water soluble types.
Don't fertilize them in late summer and fall. Feeding at that time can
affect their winter hardiness.
8. General tidbits. These plants are shallow rooted, so don't hoe around
them. Pull the weeds. Never add lime. Watch for insect pests such as
lacebug. These may need to be kept under control with some type of insecticide.
We hope this information is helpful to you. We trust it will keep you
from becoming one of those folks who walk into nurseries and say "I
just can't grow Azaleas!"
of Thumb" for planting shrubs:
Here are some general rules that we have for planting shrubs
around your home.
1. Plants which have color - Reds, Golds, Blues, Yellows
- in the foliage, for example: the Red Barberries, Gold Thread
Cypress, the Gold Junipers, Sandcherry, the Blue Spruces, and
many others, generally require sun to keep the color. Plant
these types of plants where they get an abundant amount of sun.
If you have half day sun, afternoon sun is preferred over morning
sun. Planting these types of plants in the shade certainly won't
kill them, but they will not develop the wonderful varieties
of color which they were meant to display.
2. Most deciduous plants which flower, for example, Spirea,
Forsythia, Weigela, Viburnum, and Lilac can be planted in full
sun. Sun is necessary for bud and flower development.
3. Most needled Evergreens, or Conifers, for example,
Spruce, Aborvitae, Juniper, Yews, and Pine are fairly tough,
resistant plants and can be planted in open areas and in full
sun. Their tight needles hold up well to winds and adverse conditions.
4. Dogwoods grow naturally in woodland areas in dappled
to partial shade. The soil in which they are growing resulted
from decaying leaves and other organic matter. This good, rich,
well-drained soil took many, many years to develop. Again, what
do folks do? They purchase a Dogwood, plant it in our heavy,
poorly drained soil in the middle of the lawn in full, hot baking
sun. It simply does not like it there. Our advice on planting
Dogwoods is to treat them just like you would Azaleas and Rhododendrons.
5. Plants for wet soil. Wet soil is a problem for many
plants. There are some which will tolerate wet ground. We list
a few of them here: Red Maples (Acer Rubrum), Serviceberry,
Sycamore, Willows, Pin Oak, Aronia, Sweetshrub, Buttonbush,
Red Stem Dogwood, Inkberry Holly, Deciduous Hollies, Bayberry,
6. Plants for shade. Some plants will tolerate shade
better than others. Again, here is a general listing: Japanese
Maples (the red ones may not develop their red color as well
as you want), Serviceberry, Boxwood, Sweetshrub, Redbud, Dogwood,
Witch Hazel, Hydrangea, Holly, Mountain Laurel, Grape Holly
(Mahonia), Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo), Pieris, Rhododendrons,
Azaleas, Yew, Arborvitae, and Hemlock.
7. What about deer? Deer have become a problem for some
gardeners. We have heard horror stories about what deer did
to landscapes. They say the only thing that will protect your
lawn and garden is a nine foot high fence. Short of erecting
a fence, you can plant deer resistant plants. Even planting
deer resistant plants is not foolproof. When deer are really
hungry, they will, most likely, eat anything, if the alternative
is starvation. Some folks don't like Liver and Onions.
However, if you haven't eaten for three days, you probably will
eat Liver and Onions!
So, for what it's worth, here is a listing of deer resistant
plants: Butterfly Bush, Boxwood, Caryopteris, Cotoneaster, Cryptomeria,
Scotch Broom, Hypericum (St. Johnswort), some Junipers, Leucothoe,
Pieris, Pyracantha, Spirea, and Yucca.
8.Perennials which tend to be deer resistant are: Achillea(Yarrow),
Aegopodium (Snow-On-The-Mountain), Agastache, Ajuga (Bugleweed),
Artemesia, Calamintha, Coreopsis, Dianthus (Pinks, Sweet Williams),
Dicentra (Bleeding-Heart), Digitalis (Foxglove), most grasses,
Gypsophila (Baby's Breath), Iris, Lamium, Lavender, Liatris,
Monarda (Bee Balm), Nepeta (Catmint), Oenethera (Evening Primrose),
Oregano, Perovskia (Russian Sage), Salvia, Stachys (Lambs Ear),
Thymus, Tradescantia (Spiderwort), Verbena, and Veronica.
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