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Gardening with Laurie: Extra care needed for azaleas

By By Laurie Garretson
June 21, 2012 at 1:21 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

There are seasons for all types of plants. For example, you might think of hibiscus during the spring and summer seasons, and pansies and snapdragons during the fall and winter seasons. Many southerners think of colorful blooming azaleas during the spring season. But spring isn't the only time these beauties should be thought of.

If you grow azaleas, or would like to grow them, here's a few tips to help with their care.

For beautiful, blooming azaleas, you need to provide some additional care during the summer and fall.

Keeping them well watered during our hot, dry summer months, well fed and controlling any pests that may show up will help to create the beautiful bloomers you want next season.

Azaleas shrubs have lots of shallow feeder roots, which means they can dry out quickly. When you water, be sure to apply enough to thoroughly soak the planting area. This should be accomplished by a long, slow watering routine, maybe once or twice a week, depending on your soil and planting location. Do not water frequently for short periods of time. This type of watering can lead to problems.

As with most plants, azaleas can benefit from a heavy layer of mulch, especially during times of high temperatures and drought conditions. Mulch will help keep roots cooler and keep moisture in the soil, which means less watering. It also helps to deter weed growth.

Another common problem many gardeners have with their azaleas is a yellowing of the foliage, which seems to occur during summer months and in areas with alkaline soils. If this sounds familiar to your situation, you probably need more organic matter in the soil and some additional nutrients.

Feeding with a natural fertilizer that encourages blooms plus some cottonseed meal to help lower the soil's pH should help. When gardening in our area, many acid-loving plants, such as azaleas, can use help to utilize iron that can be locked into our alkaline soils.

Lots of organic matter will help unlock the iron that's in our soils, and cottonseed meal helps to increase the acidity as well as add other nutrients.

At times, azaleas can have problems with aphids. This is usually noticed when a black sooty mold develops on the foliage. This mold is growing on a sticky secretion that is excreted by the aphids. If aphids should become a problem, spraying the foliage with an organic insecticide should get rid of them.

With these tips and a bit of care, your azaleas can grow and bloom as beautifully as they do in East Texas.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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