From the Desk of Ed Hume: Azaleas

February 27, 2012 at 4:20 AM Leave a comment

Azaleas, with their colorful blooms and lush greenery, are a springtime favorite among gardeners. Evergreen azaleas are probably the most popular type, but the later flowering Mollis azaleas are possibly even showier, and many are very fragrant.

So let’s talk about these two types of azaleas.

Most evergreen varieties are low growing, which makes them excellent plants for borders, edging, and mid-bed plantings. They maintain their small evergreen leaves all year. Flowers range from red to rose to salmon and bi-color. Most flowers are single, and most flower in April and May. They grow and flower best in shady parts of the garden, although with a little care many varieties do fine in full sun. Occasionally, plants will get a little leggy. If that happens, a light pruning immediately after flowering should encourage a bushier growth. If leaf color fades, feed them a rhododendron or an evergreen fertilizer immediately after they bloom.

Mollis azaleas are deciduous, and tend to be taller, thus looking best in mid-bed, or as a background plant. Flowers come in orange, yellow, pink, and white. Quite a few have a very nice fragrance. Mollis azaleas grow best in full sun or partial sun. Most varieties flower in late spring. The large leaves turn various colors during the autumn, then fall off.

Like rhododendrons and camellias, azaleas must be planted right at ground level. If they’re planted too deep, they’ll grow, but they won’t flower. There are countless varieties of both evergreen and Mollis azaleas, so I suggest you choose plants while they’re in bloom so you can be sure you like the flower color.

For more information on azaleas check out my garden book, “Gardening With Ed Hume: Northwest Gardening Made Easy,” where I actually recommend some varieties.

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