'Azaleas are for remembering your home with fondness
and wishing to return to it'
Driving around Hampton Roads it’s hard not to take notice of all the gorgeous azaleas in bloom this time of year. It is said to be a southern tradition, build a house: plant azaleas. One thing is for sure, here in Virginia we are not lacking in these beautiful spring bloomers!
So, lets talk varieties and planting our go-to southern charmers! There are so many different varietals of various height, color, tolerance, and time of blossom. These details will all become important factors when choosing which azalea is perfect for your garden. Let’s break it down. There are two types of azaleas: evergreen and deciduous.
George Taber- Southern Indica
Evergreen keep there leaves all year round but need more protection from harsh winters. Typically, in southeastern VA these beauties fair quite well in our mild winters. Look for Kurume Hybrids which are medium to large, twiggy shrubs with big blossoms. Examples: Coral Bells, Flame, Hershey Red, Hino-Crimson, Hinodegiri, Mother’s Day, Pink Pearl, Salmon Beauty, Snow, Tradition.
Deciduous azalea leaves turn yellow to red in the fall and shed during the winter months. Many of the deciduous varieties are native to the Americas. There are around 15 varieties native to the east coast alone. Having come from this terrain, most native azaleas are more hardy and adaptable. Examples: Rhododendron vase, Rhododendron periclymenoides, Rhododendron atlanticum, rhododendron calendulaceum, rhododendron cumberlandense.
Coral Bells- Kurume Hybrid
Azaleas bloom all throughput the spring and some continue into early summer. The Encore series will even produce a second round of blossoms in the fall. If planned properly, a garden could boast azalea blooms up to eight months out of the year. Here are some more specifics:
Early bloomer- Beginning of April- Kurume hybrids (listed above), Poukhanense, Vitiate, Mucronatum
Mid season- late April through early May- Southern Indian hybrids George Tabor and Formosa, Carla hybrid, and many Glenn Dale varieties
Late bloomer- mid to late May- Indica azaleas, Gumpo, and Satsuki
Snow- Kurume Hybrid
Size is very important to consider when planting. You would not want to place an azalea which could grow 15 ft next to your window or foundation for that matter. Always know the size your plant will reach at max maturity. Azaleas range from 1ft to 20 ft tall and should be placed accordingly.
Kurume hybrids- low growing- 2 to 3 ft average sometimes up to 5-6 ft.
Southern Indian hybrids- fast growing- 5 to 8 ft tall and 5 to 10 ft wide
Robin Hill hybrids- cold hardy- low growing- 2 to 3 ft
Satsuki hybrids- low growing- 3 to 4 ft- some varieties spread like ground cover
Encore- medium growers- 3 to 5 ft high and wide
Formosa- Southern Indica
Azaleas are fairly hardy plants surviving in low nutrient soil with very little attention necessary. There are just a few factors to consider when placing azaleas. In the Tidewater region especially, we experience strong southwest winds. Plant azaleas between a north and east facing slope to protect against harsh winds which could easily shred the delicate branches. Otherwise, plant near a sheltering wall avoiding corners where bushes can be exposed to intense gusts.
Azaleas like acidic soil which is great for us! Most soil east of the Mississippi is naturally acidic and perfect for Azalea bushes. Soil that contains excess clay or sand may need amending. Plant your bushes in a well drained soil with the root ball about 2 inches above ground level. For best results, mulch around the bush to hold moisture during the summer and retain heat during the winter.
Optimally, plants are installed during cool spring or fall conditions. However, you can plant during summer as long as the root system stays well watered. Plant in a location with filtered shade. Azaleas can take a few hours of direct sun but can be burnt by late afternoon heat. Some varieties tolerate sun better than others. Also, avoid planting under trees with shallow root systems (elm, maple) which could compete with water resources.
Choose the best type of azalea for your space and follow these tips to get your gorgeous azalea garden started. Plant in large clusters for maximum impact especially under tall pines or along the perimeter of your yard. Either way, these beauties are sure to bring a smile to your face year after year. Keep to that southern tradition and make sure no yard goes without an azalea!
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