In general, azaleas in the landscape require little or no fertilizer. Having
humus (decomposed organic matter) in the soil and maintaining an organic mulch around azaleas are more important than applying chemical fertilizers, and much safer. Decomposition of the mulch normally provides the nutrients needed for the good health of the azaleas.
If chlorosis of the leaves (yellowed, with green veins) or stunted plant growth suggest there may be nutritional deficiencies, a soil test may be useful. This can usually be arranged through your county agent at little or no cost. Soil test results will show the specific amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and various other important elements that are present in the soil. The results may be accompanied by specific fertilizer recommendations to correct any deficiences. If not, your county agent may be able to provide specific recommendations. Applying chemical fertilizers without knowledge of any deficiences in your soil may not help much, and may actually harm your azaleas. As a very general rule, more azaleas are killed by kindness than by neglect.
of evergreen azaleas are grown for sale by florists in full bloom at almost any time of the year. Try to find out the variety of your gift azalea, and look it up in a reference book or in the azaleas.org database
, to see if it is cold-hardy
in your area (most of them can't stand a frost). If it is, enjoy it inside until spring and then plant it outside in a part-sun, part-shade place in the garden (see planting azaleas
on the azaleas.org
). If you want to
prune it, do that soon after it blooms, to avoid cutting off the buds for next year's blooms. While it is in the house, remove its pretty paper wrapper,
and water it deeply and infrequently. A good way is to soak it in a tub of water until the bubbles stop, and then let it drain out the excess water. Do this about once a week. Exactly how often depends on its potting mix and the temperature and humidity of the room. The goal is to have moist soil, rather than having it either saturated or dry for more than a few hours at a time. Keeping it in a cool area of the house will lengthen the bloom period. Putting the pot on or near a saucer of water and gravel will raise the humidity and help it hold its leaves. If the azalea is not cold-hardy, you can plant it outside after the last frost, still in the pot, with the rim of the pot even with the soil level, or use it as a potted plant. Remember to water it, as the roots can only get the water in the pot. Bring it back into the house during the winter as a potted plant, and put it in the coolest part of the house during the winter.
If it will be staying in the pot, fertilize it lightly every month or so through the fall, with a fertilizer low in nitrogen and high in phosporus to promote root and bud growth without promoting plant and leaf growth. Then let it rest during the winter, but don't forget to water it. Also, carefully remove it from the pot every six months or so to check the roots. If you see fine roots circling the root ball, put it into another pot, 2 to 4 inches wider than the old pot. Before repotting it, cut those circling roots by making top-to-bottom cuts every few inches, all the way around the root ball. A good potting mix is a 50/50 mixture of potting soil and fine pine bark.
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