The Royalty of the Garden

This copyrighted  post, “The Royalty of the Garden” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

One of the signature plants of the South is the azalea.  Did you know that the azalea is called the Royalty of the Garden?  The American Azalea Society has a very informative web site about them.

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Some have been in bloom now for about a week, while others are just starting to show a little color in the buds. When buying azaleas, I always buy when they are in bloom to ensure that the color is the one I want.  Even though they are only in bloom a short time, I feel their color should coordinate with house color and the rest of the garden.  Remember to keep in mind the ultimate size of these shrubs.  Some are only a foot tall, while others can grow to ten plus feet.  I have seen so many people plant the large ones near their houses, prune them yearly, get tired of pruning them, and then yank them out and replant with something else (usually a loropetlum that also grows too tall).

Since azaleas set their flower buds by late summer, it is important that they receive adequate water to make sure that the following spring there are many flowers.  A good layer of mulch will help keep the moisture around the plants.  Azaleas do need good drainage, and acidic soil, and they do very well under large pine trees.

I feel azaleas look their best when planted in blocks of color or in a sweep of a single color.  This sets off their billowy shapes better.  I also think that they look best in a natural, loose mounding form rather than clipped into boxes or balls.   One thing I have been seeing a little of lately in the older areas of town is the shaping of old, large azaleas into small trees.  This seems to work best with the leggy ones with sturdy trunks.  By pruning out the lower limbs and some of the interior branches something attractive is created.  So instead of scraggly, overgrown, untended azalea there is now a small specimen tree.

Two years ago I bought a yellow deciduous azalea that seems to be settling in nicely.  I am thinking about adding a few more because of the colors available.  The Encore azaleas that have come out in the past few years look interesting, but I have not seen them planted out in gardens, so I am unsure if I should use them in the garden or not. 

Evergreen or deciduous, once blooming or repeat blooming, large or small, azaleas are striking, beautiful shrubs that the South can’t do without.

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5 Comments

  1. March 6, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    I couldn’t grow them at my current home cause of a massive oak tree that took all the moisture out of the soil. I am hoping to have some at the new place though. Great blog today as always.

    Thanks, for the complement. I hope you can have azaleas at your new home; they are one of my favorite spring plants.

  2. Kylee said,

    March 6, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    I’ve lost a few azaleas up here, but I planted one last year in the spring (as opposed to the fall for the others), and it made it through our droughtish summer. I’m really hoping it will make it through the winter. Right now, it looks pretty good, I think, but it’s kind of hard to know for sure until spring decides to get here.

    I just love azaleas!

    I hope it makes it. I keep mine mulched very well all year long which seems to help with the moisture and cold we sometimes have.

  3. Frances said,

    March 7, 2008 at 5:39 am

    I can’t resist a deciduous azalea and pick up one or two each year. They seem to be made of tougher stuff than the evergreens, something that I used to feel was the opposite until last year’s late freeze killed so many of the evergreen type. They are cheap and fill many needs in our garden, maybe last year was a once in a lifetime event here in TN. I still love them all, and agree with you they should not be pruned and should be planted in large groups. Thanks for writing about them.
    Frances at Faire Garden

    I’ve just started with the deciduous ones and I agree with you. They do seem to be tough plants. Maybe last year’s problem was the extreme cold weather that came fairly late in the spring. Thanks, Frances, for stopping by.

  4. Bill Miller said,

    March 7, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Azaleas will grow well most anywhere their minimal requirements are met. Deciduous azaleas tend to be more cold hardy, but they don’t do as well as the evergreen hybrids in the heat hardiness category. Today, some breeders are trying to make the evergreen azaleas more cold hardy — while others are trying to make the deciduous azaleas more heat hardy.

    It’s a good thing that plant breeders are always trying to push the limits in plant development because that way we gardeners can get the plants we want. I live about 35 miles from where Buddy Lee of Independence, LA developed the Encore azaleas. So all types of azaleas have always been a mainstay here.

  5. Phillip said,

    March 7, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Excellent post and some good advice. I don’t have many azaleas but every year I tell myself that I need to add more. I do have one of the Encore azaleas. At first I wasn’t that impressed with it but it seems like it is getting better. Someone once told me that they bloom more and more after they have settled in. I don’t care for the autumn bloom though. To me, azaleas are spring plants and when I see them blooming in the fall it just doesn’t seem right!

    That’s good to know about the Encore azaleas needing time to settle in. If I tried them, I think I would look to the more “autumn” colors that are available since the pastels are so readily available in the spring only blooming types. You are right about thinking of them as spring, not fall plants.


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