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Azaleas: Tips for getting the best blooms and maintaining azalea health

Autumn Bravo, the Encore Azalea featured in this photo, produces multiple blooms on each stem three seasons of the year: fall, spring and summer.
Autumn Bravo, the Encore Azalea featured in this photo, produces multiple blooms on each stem three seasons of the year: fall, spring and summer.
Courtesy of Constance K. Morris

With the summer heat still beating down on the residential landscapes of the South, some plants are more at risk than others for problems. But fortunately there are some simple solutions to these issues, so you can enjoy lots of beautiful flower blooms regardless of the season. And one of those solutions is to choose a hardy plant that can withstand the high temperatures of the summer in the South.

This Encore Azalea is called Autumn Bravo for its vivid red blooms fall, spring and summer.
Courtesy of Constance K. Morris Photography

If you don't want stress to trigger an azalea dieback, the Houston Chronicle's August 15 report suggests you also place your azalea in locations where they will only receive morning sunlight or filtered sunlight. But if you have already put your plant in a spot in which they receive too much southern sunlight each day, you don't want to try to dig it up and move it in the middle of a hot August based upon this report, as it will stress your plant. Instead, you may need to give it some tender loving care for another month or two and then move it, after it has received plenty of moisture and the daytime temperatures have declined more.

For those who have yet to plant an azalea, it is recommended that you make sure that this shrub is placed in well-draining acidic soil and kept moist in between rains when it is first put in the ground. And it is also important to mulch around it after planting, since its roots are closer to the top of the soil, causing them to be more susceptible to loss of moisture.

With some parts of the South experiencing temperatures as high as 100 degrees, the Encore Azalea company recommends the following additional tips for a successful bloom season if you are planting their unique azaleas. First, the ground needs to be properly prepared, and in some areas of the South that means tilling the soil slightly--and adding "equal parts fine pine bark, Canadian sphagnum peat moss and sharp sand" (not Play sand), in order to increase drainage.

It also means letting the prepared soil settle for about two weeks in advance of planting, as the root ball of your azalea could become exposed to the elements if you try to plant it before the soil has completely settled. And while you need to mulch around the plant after you put it in the ground, you don't need to put too heavy of a mulch, as that can bury your plant roots too deeply. They recommend only an inch or two of pine bark.

You also need to make sure you dig a hole twice as wide as it is deep for this type of plant and make sure you keep your azalea well watered for up to a year after planting, otherwise it will die more easily.

Take their advice, as this gardener can confirm that the best way to enjoy beautiful blooms from a flowering plant like this is to prepare the soil correctly at the start and to make sure to keep the new plant watered well during its first year under the hot southern sun. And then you can have gorgeous Autumn Bravo red blooms fall, spring and summer.