Guide for Hardy Azaleas

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Guide for Hardy Azaleas
Azalea flowers provide a showy display in late spring. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

With showy blooms in colours ranging from pale orange to bright magenta, azaleas make an attractive garden addition. Hardy azaleas will tolerate freezing conditions and are a smart choice for northern gardens. Planting your azalea in the right soil, feeding it properly and performing basic shrub maintenance will help your hardy azalea thrive.

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Varieties

Although many azaleas can handle harsh conditions, a few varieties are known for their hardiness. The Albrecht azalea grows to about 5 feet tall and bears 2-inch-wide, fragrant pink blossoms. The smaller Coast Dwarf azalea reaches 2 feet at maturity and has 1-inch, fragrant white blooms edged in red. Both of these are deciduous and tolerate temperatures down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Hardy evergreen azaleas include the Kaempferi azalea, which tolerates temperatures as low as -9.44 degrees C below zero, and Gable azaleas, which handle temperatures to zero degrees. Most evergreen azaleas do best where temperature don't go below -9.44C.

Planting Conditions

Azaleas prefer a spot in the yard with filtered, but not dense shade. They will do well if exposed to full morning and evening sun, but in the heat of a summer afternoon, they need to have some shade. Azaleas require acidic soil to take in nutrients and to produce the showiest blooms. If your soil is neutral or basic, amend the planting area with fir needles, sulphur, iron sulphate or coffee grounds. If you have heavy clay soil, amend it with compost or fill your planting hole with fresh potting soil to improve drainage.

Feeding and Watering

Azaleas aren't heavy feeders, but should be fertilised a couple times a year: once in the spring just prior to blooming and once in the late summer to help the plant prepare for winter. The fertiliser should be for acid-loving plants. Some garden centres carry food specially designed for azaleas. The soil around your azalea should be kept moist, but not wet throughout the growing season. In the fall, tapering off your watering helps the plant prepare for winter. Water only once or twice in the fall if it has been dry.

Azalea Maintenance

Mulch the ground around your azalea to retain water and protect the plant's shallow roots. Keep the area around the trunk clear of mulch to prevent rot. Trim lower branches away to provide good air flow to the soil around the plant to reduce the likelihood of fungal infections. You can prune your azalea after it flowers if you want to shape it or control its height. During the winter, protect your hardy azaleas from harsh winds by using a trellis as a screen.

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