Azaleas are flowering shrubs in the genus Rhododendron, according to azalea historian Fred Galle, in the United States, Azalea indica was first introduced to the outdoor landscape in the 1830s at the rice plantation Magnolia-on-the-Ashley in Charleston, South Carolina.
Magnolia’s owner John Grimke Drayton imported the plants for use in his estate garden from Philadelphia, where they were grown only in greenhouses.
With encouragement from Charles Sprague Sargent from Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, Magnolia Gardens was opened to the public in 1871, following the American Civil War.
To keep azaleas looking healthy, it is essential that you choose an appropriate planting location and practice proper azalea care.
Azaleas actually look the most attractive when they are planted alone; however, mass plantings work well in larger areas, such as wooded sites.
Since the flower coverage on azaleas encompasses the entire shrub, placing them in a background of conifers, such as pines, or other acid-loving plants will help set off their colors while minimizing their heavy effect.
These shrubs should be planted in the spring, preferably within cool, lightly shaded sites.
Although azaleas are generally free of pests and diseases with proper azalea care, common azalea diseases and problems do exist.
Insects that can affect azaleas include lace bugs and spider mites. Lace bugs are more likely to target shrubs that are grown in areas of full sun.
Petal blight, leaf spots, and root rot are common diseases associated with these deciduous shrubs.
Azaleas are acid loving plants. They grow best in light shade, and need protection from midday sun and winter sun.
They prefer a moist, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5. Check the soil pH before planting, especially if planting along a foundation where soils tend to be more alkaline.
Adjust the pH, as needed. Mix in plenty of inorganic matter, and well-rotted manure.
Selecting a location is important. Azaleas can be harmed or killed by sustained winds. Select a location out of the direct sunlight, if possible.
Protection from strong midday sun is important. Otherwise the leaves dry out and burn. Northern exposures are best. It is also important to provide protection from winds.
A low lying area, or one protected by a building or a hedgerow is a good choice.
Azaleas prefer a moist soil. It is important to water the plants during extended dry spells, even in the fall.