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19588Re: [AZ] Wild azalea won't bloom

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  • George Klump
    Apr 4 4:54 PM
      On 4/4/2014 4:04 PM, Patricia Tate wrote:
      [AZ] Wild azalea won't bloom
      Patricia Tate <patriciatate2000@...>
      4/4/2014 3:52 PM
      "azaleas@yahoogroups.com" <azaleas@yahoogroups.com>


      I planted a wild azalea 5 years ago and it has never bloomed. It is planted near a pink magnolia with dappled light (mostly morning sun) with leaves and pine straw as mulch. I don't remember the soil, but I think it had a clay base. It is well drained. Do you have an idea what I can do to get it to bloom?


      Hello, Patricia,

      Thank you for writing in, though I have no idea where you live, so I cannot comment on the weather conditions and your azalea. 

      However, you did leave a few clues.  One is that you planted it near a soulangeana.  Another is that you think the soil has a clay base. 

      Seeing these two things, the first thing which comes to mind is competition with the "pink" magnolia which I am assuming is a soulangeana.  The second thing which may turn out to be the most important is the clay soil.  Clay soil tends to be alkaline, though I'm sure someone could come up with a vein of clay somewhere which is not alkaline.  Even so the clay particles are going to be very tiny by definition which means no oxygen or water will get down to the roots.  Alkalinity means whatever soil nutrients are there will not be available to the azalea feeder roots.

      Suggestion #1: Dig the azalea up carefully maybe a foot out beyond its drip zone.  Some roots will break, but, if you're careful, not too many will break.  If you wish to keep the azalea where it presently is, then, dig the hole for it maybe eight inches deep and let's say three times the width of the root ball.  If the root ball is now ten inches in diameter, then, make the width of the hole for the azalea about thirty inches in diameter. 

      Suggestion #2: Get some COARSE peat moss, the chunky kind, and mix it with equal parts of perlite and any good shredded bark, e.g. redwood, maple, pine, etc.  That mixture will be 1 - 1 - 1.  If you do not use redwood, then, I would make it 1 - 1 - 2. . . . .just "eyeball" it.  Fill the hole you've dug about two-thirds of the way and, then, take your hose and soak it till it becomes a "soup".  Let it drain.  If you wish, you may take the hose and blow off some of the soil of the root ball so that more roots are exposed, maybe blow off 60% to 70% of that root ball soil.  Then, set the azalea down on the middle of the soaked up mixture and fill the hole the rest of the way with the mixture making sure the plant is solidly set.  Fill it only to about an inch below the crown of the plant so that you don't invite crown rot.  Then, soak the whole thing with the hose again and leave it. 

      Suggestion #3: Azaleas do not like to be fed too much so we only do this maybe three times annually.  And when we do, we tend to use cottonseed meal, since it is a slow release fertilizer which the plants love and it won't burn.  We do it at Easter, Fourth of July and Labor Day because that's easy to remember.  A cupful around the plant ought to do it each time.  If you get a hard freeze in October where you live, just back up the Labor Day feeding schedule a couple of weeks.  Same way on the other end; just postpone feeding the plants until the danger of a real freeze is past. 

      All of this will acidify the mixture in which the roots of the azalea sit and it will allow whatever native soil is in with it [I wouldn't go beyond maybe 20% on that score myself] to convert the normal nutrients into a water-soluble form which the little feeder roots can use.  Azalea roots do not mind water and/or being damp.  However, they will not tolerate sitting in water.  That will invite root rot. 

      If you feel it is too close to your magnolia, dig the hole somewhere else.  Morning sun is very good.  Some azaleas require more sun than others in order to bloom.  But they all require some sunlight, else they won't bloom at all. 

      Good luck.

      George E. Klump
      Southern California Chapter, ARS/ASA


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