Georgia azaleas: Proper planting and maintenance

In 1979, Georgia's state wildflower was crowned the azalea. Georgia azaleas have a stunning variation...

In 1979, Georgia's state wildflower was crowned the azalea. Georgia azaleas have a stunning variation of colors. Azaleas can come in beautiful oranges, reds, whites and yellows. The genus Rhododendron houses all the azalea plants. There are some azalea types that are more common in Georgia than others. While many of these require the same care as other plants in your yard, gardeners also must keep in mind that azaleas need their own special care and maintenance.

Azalea planting

When you bring home an azalea to plant in your yard, you should have water, organic matter, a shovel and a garden fork on hand. Always wet the azalea root ball before you place it in the ground, as it is easier to do this out of the hole than after planting. The hole that is dug should be two or three times the size of the rootball in width, but about the same size in depth. Dig to these specifications before putting the rootball into the ground. Plant where there is an inch of the rootball above your soil, adding organic matter into the soil. You'll use your garden fork to amend the soil with the organic matter. At the time of planting, do not use fertilizer. Instead, mulch the planted azalea well. When done, water the area well. Make sure to keep a careful eye on your new plants so that they do not dry out.

Maintenance of Georgia azaleas

There are a few simple maintenance needs when you have azaleas. These deal with keeping the shrub moist, cool and disease-free. While every plant needs water, nutrients and a careful watch, azaleas can be prone to specific problems. Keep in mind, they can't dry out, and they should always be cool on the roots. These items that are listed below are the basic needs of all azaleas.

  • Always mulch so that there is a 3-inch to 5-inch layer around your new plants. This keeps them protected, warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
  • Water well, using approximately 6 gallons for every 10 square feet. This keeps them moist, allowing for the best growth possible.
  • Do not use chemical fertilizers, only organic matter. Chemical fertilizer can be very harsh on azaleas and it can even burn some varieties.
  • Soil test each year to test for the acidity that azaleas need.
  • Prune after bloom season, taking off old plant growth or dead limbs, up to 12 inches of ground level. Not all azaleas will need severe pruning, so only do what your particular plant needs.

Georgia's azaleas

These azaleas are all found in some part of the state. Many of these are found in landscapes and yards around the South. All of these choices would be great in your yard, especially if planted around front porches and back patios. They can also attract butterflies and other flying insects into your landscape for admiring.

  • Rhododendron canescens: This is a fragrant native species that is a spring bloomer, in late March into early April. It is white to a deep, rich pink in color. This cultivar is known as the Pinxter azalea, the Piedmont azalea, the wild azalea or the bush honeysuckle. Its typical growth is 6 to 15 feet high and wide, with an airy loose form.
  • Rhododendron alabamense: A fragrant white azalea that can be rare, this mid-April to mid-May bloomer is found in several counties in the state. This cultivar is known as the Alabama azalea. It grows 5 to 6 feet high and wide, with a rounded form.
  • Rhododendron calendulaceum: A yellow, orange or red azalea, this species blooms in May and is not a fragrant variety. This variety is known as the flame azalea. It grows 4 to 10 feet high in most circumstances, but it can be up to 15 feet high with great conditions. It has an upright and spreading form.
  • Rhododendron viscosum: A fragrant white flowered species, it is found throughout the state of Georgia. This variety is known as the swamp azalea, the swamp honeysuckle or the clammy azalea. It grows 2 to 8 feet high and 3 to 8 feet wide in an open, loose form.

Atlanta-area landscapers are knowledgeable in helping you pick out, plant and care for azaleas meant for the seasons of Georgia. If you'd like to create a stunning azalea border, or just a few focal points in your yard, let any of these local landscapers answer your questions and guide you through the planting process.

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