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How to grow Azaleas in Arkansas

AzaleasAzaleas are one of our most loved southern landscape plants!  When properly planted and cared for, they provide both an excellent evergreen presence and eye-catching blooms.  A quick note; native azaleas are not evergreen but their stunning blooms more than make up for lack of winter leaves!

Choosing an azalea  Native and old fashioned azaleas such as formosas and gumpos require afternoon shade; plant in a location with morning sun or dappled afternoon sun should be fine for these varieties.  Encore azaleas are very popular; they are called Encore because they bloom in the spring and then again in the fall.  Encores can take more sun but will require more water than if planted in a more shady area.  All azaleas will do better with afternoon shade here in Arkansas.

Planting  Proper placement of azaleas is key; watch the area to see how much sun it receives before choosing your plants.  Azaleas also require well drained, slightly acidic soil.  The best formula formula for successful azalea planting here in central Arkansas includes:

  • Doing a soil test to learn pH; soils tend to be acidic here but checking is recommended
  • Amending the soil by adding organic matter (such as Organic Compost) to increase soil drainage
  • Applying Good Earth brand Jump Start with mycorrhizea for best root establishment
  • Planting with the root ball slightly above grade (about an inch)
  • Add mulch
  • Watering thoroughly at planting and regularly thereafter
  • Keep mature plant size in mind; azaleas need good air flow to cut down on insect issues

Care  Although azaleas like well drained soil, they require regular watering.  Plan to hand water your plants if the area isn’t watered by a sprinkler system.  Regular watering with alkaline water can alter the soil pH; perform a soil test occasionally.  Fertilize with Ferti-Lome Azalea/ Evergreen Food with Systemic Insecticide after the spring bloom season has ended.  Another good product for azaleas is Espoma Holly-Tone, which is an all natural fertilizer for acid loving plants. This will both feed and protect your azaleas from their most common pest, the lacebug.  After spring bloom is also the time to prune.  Azaleas have a wonderful natural form so it’s best to work with that when pruning.  Look for the tallest branches that need trimming back and follow the branch down under the canopy height you are trying to keep.  Prune just above a fork in the branch to encourage further branching.  As a good rule of thumb, do not remove more than 30% of the plant at any one time.   Since azaleas should be pruned mostly for shaping reasons, this shouldn’t be an issue.