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GardenSMART :: How to Care for Flowering Azaleas and Rhododendrons

How to Care for Flowering Azaleas and Rhododendrons

By The Espoma Company
Photograph courtesy of The Espoma Company

Shrubs work wonders — especially those with big, colorful flowers like azaleas and rhododendrons. These easy to care for plants instantly fill gaps in your garden landscape and look fabulous every season.

There's a reason azaleas and rhododendrons are some of the most popular flowering shrubs. These shrubs can thrive in almost any conditions and they bloom from late spring to early summer.

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Plus, they come in almost every color of the rainbow — from bold pinks, purples and reds to soft, muted yellows and whites. As an added bonus, hummingbirds and other pollinators cannot get enough of azalea and rhododendron blossoms. 

Caring for Established Shrubs:

Conduct a soil test to see if your soil is meeting the needs of your rhododendron or azalea. These acid loving shrubs need a soil pH of 4.5-5.5. If your soil test reveals a pH of 7 or higher, your soil is neutral to alkaline. Solve the problem by amending with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

A spring feeding helps plants develop new growth and produce new flower buds. Feed plants now by sprinkling one cup of Holly-tone per foot of branch spread. Holly-tone is long lasting, so you'll only need to fertilize twice in a season. Don't wait too long, or you risk encouraging green vegetative growth at the expense of flower bud development. Once now, and again in late summer will ensure a healthy, blooming rhododendron or azalea.

Caring for New Shrubs:

Before buying, check plant tags to see if you have enough space for a full-grown shrub. Azaleas and rhododendrons can range from 2 feet to more than 20 feet tall.

Before digging, choose a spot for your shrubs and envision the great impact these plants will have on your landscape. Both these flowering shrubs prefer shade and do not grow well in full sunlight.

Before you start digging, plan for growth. If planting shrubs in a row, ensure you have enough space to plant 2-6 feet apart depending on how big your shrubs will get.

These flowering shrubs are gardeners' favorites because most of the work is done before planting. Conduct a soil test to see if your soil needs to be amended.

Once your soil is ready, it's time to plant!

Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Then, remove the shrub from its original container, loosen the roots and dip in a bucket of water.

Next, arrange the shrub in the hole, so the top of the root ball is just at the ground's surface.

Replace half the hole with soil and mix in 1-cup Holly-tone fertilizer for better blooms. This organic plant food is specially crafted for acid loving plants. Feeding new shrubs with an organic fertilizer now keeps them well fed for months, spurs deep evergreen color and dynamic blooms.

Finish planting your shrub by filling the hole with the soil you removed and add 2-3" of mulch.

Water now, and tomorrow, too.

And that's it! Follow the above directions for established plants to care for them annually.   

The Espoma Company has been the pioneer in natural gardening solutions since 1929. Espoma provides an extensive selection of natural products that work in harmony with nature and are safe for people, pets and the planet. The company produces products to cover the nutritional needs of plants and to grow beautiful lawns and gardens. Visit for more information and tips about organic lawn care. 


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