Azaleas... The Royalty of the Garden!
"I love azaleas for their color and practicality in the landscape. The Girard and Hershey azaleas are a couple of my favorites. I also like the new Encore, a repeat blooming azalea." -Jerry Hearn, Garden Center Manager
As a child growing up, I always thought that azaleas were just another plant that my Grandpa had to replant every year, not realizing that they were a perennial shrub. When I was nine years old, I decided to help Grandpa "clean up" the flower beds in the back of the house. I think you can see where this is going. Yes, I cut down the azaleas! Instead of pulling out the belt, Grandpa, bless his heart, just smiled at me and said, "I guess we'll have to buy Grandma a new one." Because of this, I will always remember Azaleas and treasure them as one of my favorite flowering shrubs.
Azaleas generally do well on the east or north side of a house. They like early morning sunlight to dry the dew off their foliage, but they do not like afternoon sun. Azaleas like acidic soil, ranging on the pH scale from 5.5-6. There are soil amendments that you can use to accomplish this pH level. They don't like wet feet, so make sure you plant them in a well-drained spot.
Evergreen vs. Deciduous
Are azaleas evergreen or deciduous? Azaleas can be both. Deciduous azaleas drop all their leaves in the fall. If the weather is dry, they may drop their leaves earlier than usual. Their leaves grow back in the spring. In warmer climates or unusually warm winters, deciduous azaleas may retain some of the their leaves through winter.
Evergreen azaleas also drop their leaves, but appear to be evergreen, because they grow two sets of leaves each year. Their spring leaves are thinner, larger and grow along the stems. These leaves drop off in the fall. Their summer leaves are thicker, small, grow crowded at the branch ends and remain through winter. In colder climates or extremely cold weather, evergreen azaleas may drop most of their leaves in the winter.
The best time to prune your azaleas is before they send out new growth for spring. The only problem is that you will be cutting off this year's blooms, so be careful. The next best time to prune is during or right after bloom. This will maximize the time the plant has to fill out before winter.
So, if you want a beautiful shrub that will give the color and grace of a rose without the thorns, try an azalea!