Azaleas – The Spring time shrub
By Sheri Bethard
Certified Texas Master Gardener, Orange County Master Gardeners
Each spring we look forward to the Azalea bloom as we know the cold temperatures of winter are past and the warm temp’s of spring are just around the corner and it is time to start working in our gardens, flower or vegetable.
Azaleas are a member of the Rhododendron family. Because of our heat, Rhododendrons are not able to grow in Southeast Texas, but it’s cousin the Azalea is. Many people build their gardens with the focus on the Azalea. The blooms in the spring can completely cover the bush where the rest of the year you have a nice dark green foliage plant.
There are many varieties of Azaleas and there is a special variety just for you. If you put a little work up front, you will be rewarded year after year with wonderful springtime blooms. Most Azaleas bloom with a trumpet-shaped 1-2 inch flowers with some even up to 4 inches. They come in almost every color except blue. Most are in variations of pink, can be speckled, blotched, bicolor, single, double-petaled or hose-in-hose (one flower in another flower) and most grow in clusters called “trusses”.
Varieties of Azaleas –
Late Blooming – with these varieties you can extend your blooming season. Some of these varieties are:
‘Gumpo White’ – has large ruffled white flowers blooming in early summer and is cold hardy in zones 7-9
‘Plumleaf’ – has bright orange to deep red flowers blooming in late summer and is good in zones 5-9
Reblooming – if you don’t have time to plant multiple azalea varieties with several bloom times, opt for the reblooming azalea. They bloom in spring, rest, then send out another flush of flowers thru the summer. With these, you do not have to deadhead. Some varieties are:
‘Autumn Fire’ – True red with some double blooms in spring reblooming until fall with dark green foliage that turns purple in the fall
‘Autumn Trust’ – Large bicolor lavender-pink and dark pink flowers in spring thru fall, good in zones 7-9
‘Perfecto Mumbo’ Double Pink – Large pink double pink in spring thru fall, good in zones 7-9
Cold Hardy – These are good up to zone 5
‘Koromo Shikibu’ – has pink spidery type flowers and is fragrant, fall leaves can be colors of dark red, purple, orange and gold all at the same time. There also may be some scattered blooms in fall. This one is good in zones 5b – 9. We sold this one at our plant sale and the picture shown is of this Azalea blooming this past February at our greenhouse in Orangefield.
Native – There are several perks to growing native Azaleas. They are adapted to our region and more resistant to pests and disease. They also have a sweet or spicy fragrance.
‘Alabama’ has large white flowers with yellow blotches and a lemon fragrance. It is native to the Southeastern United States and grows well in zones 7-9
‘Texas’ – is slightly fragrant with funnel-shaped flowers of either white or pink
Planting and growing Azaleas is fairly easy if you follow these easy steps:
Above all things, do not plant too deeply…an inch or two above existing soil grade is great.
Acidic soil is required (have your soil pH tested if are unsure).
Provide moist, friable, and well-amended soil.
Azaleas prefer afternoon shade (morning sun is fine, even preferable) or filtered light throughout the day.
Well-drained soil is a must, or one risks losing the plant in winter.
Provide regular moisture…especially do not allow azaleas to dry out until established (the first season or two).
Do not cultivate the soil around the drip line. Azalea roots grow close to the surface.
If you have any horticulture/gardening questions, please call our hotline 409-882-7010, Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. or you can send your question thru our website at https://txmg.org/orange and click on Contact.
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