Potting Azaleas Outdoors
Correction: I meant gopher. Not golfer. I corrected them. Thanks.
2 September 2010
This is a perfectly good question. There are a number of azaleas which should work there in your climate. As long as you are getting a couple of hours of sun at noon, that should be sufficient for some types. I will assume that the sunlight is unobstructed at that time.
One azalea which will work or should work for you is "Albert and Elizabeth", a Beligian Indica and a bi-color azalea of white and coral red. Another is "White Gish", a sport of "Dorothy Gish', a Rutherforidana. Another in the same class is "Alaska" which tends to spot bloom all years, at least mine do. The color is white. There is also a hybrid called "Green Glow". The flower is green with a definite yellowish tinge to it. When this bush is in bloom, it appears almost chartreuse. If you want a single brilliant red, then, I might suggest "Pride of Dorking" which belongs to the Southern Indica group. There are many others.
Satsuki azaleas are another breed altogether. These azaleas are usually multicolored, i.e. more than one or two colors on a single plant. Some can bloom repeatedly during the year. Mine tend to bloom 8 or 9 months of the year. Some flowers have stripes from the throat out to the petal edge. Some have color changes from the throat out to the petal edge, e.g. a white throat moving out to an orchid color, some pale some deep in color.
Gophers can be dealt with easily enough. They will do damage to anything they can eat and azaleas would qualify as one of their delectable meals. Set a trap.
As for planting azaleas in the soil, you haven't said what sort of soil you have, e.g. heavy clay, light sandy soil, acidic or alkaline. They will do better in the soil than they will in pots in any case. I would suspect that your soil is somewhat acidic, since you probably have a good rainfall there. If you choose to plant them in the soil, which I believe would be preferable, then, give them plenty of horizontal room for the roots to spread out. Depth is not so important to these plants. We use a mixture of coarse peat moss, perlite and shredded redwood bark mixed in equal parts by volume, that is, 1 - 1 - 1. [Sequoia makes a good shredded redwood bark in 3 cubic foot bags under the label of BIG K.] For example, if the root ball of your azalea is 6-inches in diameter, make the hole about 18-inches in diameter and maybe one or two inches deeper than the root ball. Fill the hole about two-thirds of the way with the mixture and, then, water it thoroughly with the hose till it becomes a "soup". Let it drain out and, then, plant your azaleas on top of it and fill the hole the rest of the way with the mixture to no higher than whatever the azalea is planted in. DO NOT cover the crown of the plant. Take your hose again and soak the entire hole once more the same way, i.e. make a "soup".
Before you plant the azalea, I would suggest you take your hose and blow off some of the heavy dirt on the root ball and, then, take a knife and coax several of the small feeder roots out and away from the root ball, even if it means breaking a few of the small roots in the process. I would do this all the way around the root ball to encourage the roots to grow out and away from the plant.
If you wish, you can make the entire bed with this mixture, but it isn't necessary unless you want to go to that work. It will pay you back by remaining acidic and stable and with the happy result that you should not be bothered by many weeds.
We feed our Ericacae with cottonseed meal only three times annually, Easter, Fourth of July and Labor Day, about a cupful dry around the plant and, then, watering it in after that. It's a slow release food and is organic which encourages positive microbial action which you need to convert nutrients into a water soluble form the feeder roots can use for the plant.
In any case regardless of what I've written here, you must have rapid drainage of the soil for these plants. That's why I suggested the mixture. It drains quickly and is acidic which the plants love.
Southern California Chapter, ARS/ASA
On Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 11:08 AM, Yulin Fang <yulinfang1@...> wrote:[this is from the ASK US page, so please send me a CC]Hi, I live in Northern California, close to SF. In my back yard, along the walk way, there are12-15 feet area, where do not get morning sun or afternoon sun, but it get couple hours of noon sun. It also has gopher going through the soil from time to time.I like to plant several different colors of azaleas along the side of walkway. I think it would be gorgeous when the plants are mature and in full bloom.I have two options, assuming the 2 hours noon sun is considered part shade:1. I could plant them directly in the ground and try to catch the gopher while the plants are young. And hope after the plant matures, the gopher won't go at them. Will gopher eat its roots even when the plants are very old and roots are very thick?2. I could plant them in large pots (17"?, 20"? diameter, the height is usually 15"). I know in the planters, they won't be eaten by gophers. But I don't know how long can the azaleas survived in the said planters until they are too big and have to be removed from planters. I don't want to buy those huge commercial and very expensive planters. For the area I have, 20" in diameter is about all I can handle. So, will azaleas live the the 20" diameter planters and lived happily ever after in there?Thank you very much.yulin fang