[Image: Encore azalea]
News Release Distributed 03/23/12
By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings
As we enter late March, we are enjoying the blooms of our main traditional southern garden shrub – the azalea. These plants are abundantly planted and represent a large percentage of landscape plants in Louisiana. Azaleas need to be planted in the right place. In addition, proper cultural practices are very important to the long term landscape enjoyment of Louisiana’s most popular flowering shrub. Whether you have a young azalea planting or an older established planting, the correct cultural practices go a long way in maximizing landscape performance.
Practices to improve landscape performance of azaleas include:
–Select a partial-sun to partial-shade planting location. This can be 4-6 hours of direct sun daily. Avoid late afternoon sun, especially in summer.
–A southern and eastern exposure is preferred to a northern or western exposure.
–A soil pH of 5.5 is recommended. Don’t guess on pH – soil test!
–Most azaleas are planted in spring, but fall is the best time to plant them, followed by winter, then spring and finally summer.
–Plant so that the top of the root ball is level with or slightly higher than the soil of the bed. Prune the roots if necessary.
–Proper spacing also is important because a crowded planting bed limits air circulation and can create conditions more favorable to disease development and azalea lace bug infestation. Know how far the plant spreads for each variety you plant and and space them accordingly.
–Fertilize with a slow-release formulation in spring after blooming is completed.
–Mulch with pine straw or similar material to a depth of 2 inches. Avoid placing mulch in piles around the lower stem of the plant.
–Manage irrigation properly. Azaleas need uniformity in soil moisture – not too dry, not too wet. Avoid overhead irrigation when practical. Know your irrigation water quality. Poor water quality (high pH, high alkalinity, high sodium) can be a problem for azaleas.
–Prune lightly after spring bloom. Complete pruning for spring-flowering azaleas by July 4. Complete pruning for multi-seasonal flowering azaleas within 2-3 weeks after any bloom cycle is completed.
Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.Rick Bogren