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When to Water Azaleas

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  • George Klump
    7 November 2010 Greetings, Anita, Bill has given you some excellent advice on watering azaleas. His advice is especially good, if the soil you have is not a
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2010
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      7 November 2010

      Greetings, Anita,

      Bill has given you some excellent advice on watering azaleas.  His advice is especially good, if the soil you have is not a particularly good soil, e.g. a heavier clay type soil where drainage is not too good.  On the other hand, if the soil you have is a lighter, looser type of soil, e.g. sand, decomposed granite or a woodland type one finds in a more forested area or a mix of any of these, then, you may have faster drainage. 

      I add this in because it has been our experience that, where Ericaceae are concerned, drainage is a key factor, if not the key factor in the health of the plant.  If your soil is a lighter type, it may already be somewhat acidic, i.e. it may possess a pH less than 7.0. . . .which is good.  If it is a lighter soil type perhaps with an acidic tendency, it may drain rather quickly. . . .which is also good.  [Less chance for phytophthora that way.]  If your soil is lighter and drains relatively quickly, then, you would want to water more often, especially in warmer weather, since it is not good for the root zone of an azalea to become really dry, as the plant will begin to draw upon itself for hydration.  
      When azaleas get too dry, the leaves begin a very characteristic wilt.  You don't really want it to get to that point.   What Bill has written here is so true, since some azaleas which begin to wilt do not always recover, even when watered.  Others will recover, but the critical point is not written in stone for any particular plant so one has to watch carefully particularly in warm weather. 

      This is all to say that, if your soil is a lighter type, it will probably drain rather quickly.  If this is true, then, there is less concern then there is, if the soil is a heavier clay type.  As a general rule, Ericaceae will take just about all the water one can give them SO LONG AS the water drains away from the root zone about as fast as it comes in.  However, that said, they will at the same time not tolerate water sitting in the root zone.  That can lead to plant disease.  Naturally, rain is the best water for any plants.  If you have a longer rainy season, lucky you.  If not, then, the hose or sprinklers becomes necessary.   As Bill said down below,
      You'll learn from experience.

      George E. Klump
      Southern California Chapter, ARS/ASA







      Hi Anita,

      It's actually a good question (not silly).  It depends on whether you are growing your azalea as a houseplant or as a part of your landscape.  The rule for watering (both places) is to water thoroughly but not frequently.  It is not a good idea to reduce watering to a schedule because conditions vary from week to week.  Folks who have automated watering systems almost always deliver too much water.  Azaleas require good drainage and will not tolerate over-watering.  The roots will rot.

      I'm going to assume that you are talking about azaleas in the landscape.  However, growing an azalea in a pot is like growing an azalea in a landscape ---- only on a much smaller scale.  The considerations and requirements are fundamentally the same, although there are some additional factors when growing an azalea indoors (e.g., exposure, humidity).

      A well established azalea in the landscape, with an appropriate layer of mulch, shouldn't need supplemental watering unless you are experiencing an extreme drought.  If you cannot remember the last rainfall you had, you might consider checking on the condition of the soil every ten days to two weeks.  If you get rain, you restart the clock.  If you stick your finger into the soil, you can tell whether it is bone dry or whether there is still some moisture.  When azaleas get too dry, the leaves begin a very characteristic wilt.  You don't really want it to get to that point.  You'll learn from experience.

      Again, the rule is to water thoroughly, but not frequently.

      William C. Miller III
      Bethesda, Maryland
      www.theazaleaworks.com

      Anita Martin wrote:  

      This must be a silly question, because I couldn’t find the topic anywhere:  How often do I water an azalea?

      Thanks.
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