How To Plant Azalea Bushes – 7 Steps For Success

Azaleas are small, shade-tolerant flowering shrubs belonging to the Rhododendron genus.

Their long-lasting blooms and vibrant foliage appear in the springtime and provide welcome color in shady gardens and any landscape.

blooming Azaleas we share how to Plant AzaleasPin

Success with Azaleas is very dependent upon proper planting techniques.

In this article, we share information to help you plant and grow your Azaleas right. Read on to learn more.

Location, Location, Location!

One of the first things you should consider when planting Rhododendrons and Azaleas is location.

Azalea bushes like to be in a position where they can receive sun in the morning and shade or filtered light in the afternoon.

Putting an Azalea plant in a position where it will receive full sun all day will cause stress.

Vibrant pink azalea blooms on a blurred green background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @ten15am

A stressed plant is far more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Moreover, most azalea varieties are best planted in different USDA zones 5 to 9, depending on the hardiness and climates.

Soil Preparation Is Very Important

Another thing you should consider when placing your Azalea is the type of soil present in your chosen setting.

Azaleas like acidic, well-draining soil.

Take the time to test the soil pH before planting your Azalea bush.

Azaleas thrive in acidic soil with a pH of around 4.5 to 5.5.

If the pH level is higher than 6.0, you must amend the soil using aluminum sulfate or agricultural sulfur.

Follow the packaging instructions carefully.

Azaleas, also like soil made up of a great deal of organic matter.

If you find your soil is heavy and made up of a great deal of compacted clay, you should amend it with organic matter such as:

  • Pine Leaf Compost
  • Oak Leaf Compost
  • Expanded Clay
  • Canadian Peat
  • Sand

A ratio of 50% native soil and 50% amendments is usually about right.

Leave Ample Room for Growth & Air Circulation

Once you’ve chosen your setting and made sure your soil is correct, begin planting your Azalea bushes.

Be sure to leave plenty of space around each bush to allow for growth and for good air circulation.

The amount of space necessary varies depending on the type of Azalea you’ve chosen to grow.

Be sure to read the instructions coming with your Azalea bush carefully to determine just the right amount of space.

Vibrant red azalea blooms with lush leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @mirajo311

7 Steps to Azalea Success

When you’re ready to actually plant, follow these steps:

#1 – Keeping the plants in their pots, set them in their potential locations.

Look at them to be sure they have plenty of space and they are aesthetically pleasing. Moreover, ensure they have dappled sunlight or partial shade with the morning sun.

#2 – Dig planting holes as deep as the plant root ball and twice as wide.

Mix the soil you have dug out of the hole with an appropriate amendment, such as a professional garden specially prepared for shrubs and trees and/or amendments such as those listed above.

Go for a 50-50 mix.

#3 – Remove your plant from its pot and rough up the surface of the ball of roots as needed to encourage good root growth.

#4 – Place the plant in the prepared planting hole.

Make sure the surface of the rootball is slightly higher than the soil line.

#5 – Backfill around the roots using the 50-50 mixture of native soil and amendments.

Mound the soil around the slightly elevated root ball.

This method will ensure the plant’s roots do not become waterlogged and subject to fungal diseases, including root rot, petal blight, rust, and powdery mildew. This will also prevent pests like mites, lace bugs, and nematodes.

#6 – Give your Azalea bush a deep, thorough watering. You can manage consistent watering with sprinklers and drip irrigation. But ensure it has good drainage.

#7 – Mulch of oak leaves around the plant’s roots to help conserve moisture.

Be careful not to allow the mulch to touch the plant’s stems.

The best mulch to use is chopped oak leaves, pine needles, pine straw, or pine bark.

Moreover, you must prune your azaleas within three weeks after blooming to give them enough time to produce new flower buds for next year’s bloom.

Watering Azaleas for Success

During the first couple of months, give your Azalea bushes a deep, thorough soaking two or three times weekly.

In the third and fourth months, water deeply one time weekly.

Pink azalea with water droplets.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @black_swallowtail_mama

When your Azalea bushes have survived their first growing season, they may be able to thrive on natural rain only.

If two weeks pass with no rain, water your Azalea bushes deeply and thoroughly.

Feeding Azaleas for Success

Give your Azalea bushes their first feeding after a month has passed.

Use a fertilizer specially formulated for acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons, camellias, and Azaleas in early spring. 

Related: More on Azalea fertilizer.

In addition to the basic nutrients usually found in plant foods, look for:

These micronutrients are essential to successful Azalea growth.

Keep the Soil Acidic

Every year in the springtime, check the soil’s pH level to make certain it stays acidic enough to keep your Azaleas happy.

Apply agricultural sulfur and/or use acid-reacting fertilizers (e.g., ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate) to help keep the soil’s pH level low.

Related: More on making the soil acidic.

As with all tasks and gardening, there’s more than one way to plant an Azalea.

Here are a couple of slightly different examples.

Both will work well.

Choose the method working best for your setting, your resources, and your preferences.

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