What should I add to my soil?

aggieroseMarch 11, 2008

I have about 8 huge azaleas in front of my house that have been there since we moved in. I have never added anything to the soil to enrich it and I was thinking I probably should. What should I add? Do azaleas like manure? Coffee grounds? What should I be adding on a regular basis?

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Manure is fine but don't over do it. Also WalMart I believe sells azalea fertilizer and feed once a year in late fall or any fertilizer specially mixed for low ph plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: Propagating Perennials

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 5:14PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

aggierose, how do they look to you? Is the foliage color OK, are they blooming as you'd like?

Azaleas have low nutritional requirements compared to many shrubs when grown in soil with an acid ph...do you know what your approximate ph is there (I understand parts of Texas can have more alkaline growing conditions)

If there isn't something specific showing up you feel needs to be addressed, they may need no fertilizer. Keeping the root zone mulched helps to condition the soil and conserve moisture, slowly feeds as it breaks down, so keeping a constant supply of mulch, replenishing as needed is often enough.

(My own are top dressed with compost, but are in beds with many perennials and I dont want to inhibit self sowing or increase in clump size of those plants with a heavy mulch)

If an actual fertilizer is needed in areas where ph is less than ideal, Hollytone is the one most often recommended - it contains the sulfur to help acidify the soil.

Do not fertilize in late fall.

I've borrowed a link from rhodyman's website for you to read through....

Here is a link that might be useful: Fertilizer will be found under How To Grow

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 6:30PM
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I guess I wasn't really wondering about fertilizer, just soil quality. In Dallas we do not have acidic soil at all. These plants were here when we moved in 4 years ago. Our neighbors have told us that the old owners had trucks of dirt brought in for the azaleas, which is why they looked so good I guess. When we first moved in I had someone from the Dallas Arboretum come out to show me how to prune them. When he first saw them he said there was no way they were azaleas because they can't grow like this here. He didn't believe they were azaleas until he came and saw them blooming.I really don't know if the leaves look good and green or not. How deep of a green are they supposed to be? Quite a few of them are tinged yellow just a little bit, but none of the leaves are a deep dark green..more of a lighter green. They didn't bloom like usual last year, but we had a watering problem the summer before that. One of our soaker hoses wasn't working right. We didn't realize it in time to stop 2 plants from dying. The only thing I have done is put down pine bark mulch and occasionally throw a few handfulls of azalea fertilizer on them. I literally have to just throw the fertilizer on the plants, and then shake them to get the granules to the ground. They are so big and bushy that I can't get under them to work it into the ground. If anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them! Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 6:55PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I'm glad you haven't been able to get under them to work it into the ground - azaleas have a wide network of surface roots that will extend at least as wide as the plant - cultivating isn't recommended, it can damage those feeder roots.

Do you keep a consistent layer of the pine bark mulch - in the wild, these grow with an accumulation of organic material (leaves, twigs, needles) falling around them (mulching them) that helps to promote a lightweight, well-drained but moist soil. Another feature associated with accumulation of organic material is increasing soil acidity. Leaves and other plant remains release organic acids as they decompose and wherever accumulation is faster than decomposition, an acid condition follows...just what azaleas need.

Drought can cause an off yellow color, poor performance, but yellowish leaves with darker veins can be inadequate iron, magnesium. Those elements may be there, but unavailable to the plant at a higher ph. May be time to get a soil test done....

Here is a link that might be useful: FYI - Hollytone

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 8:19PM
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bboy(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Note being able to tell they were azaleas without the flowers is a red flag for me. Some expert! Mulching is good standard practice for all permanent plantings, if you want to do something for them start with that.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 1:46AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

If the slight yellowing is between green veins, then that is the early signs of chlorosis which is normally caused by too high a pH. This can be caused in your area by alkaline water. You may need to add a little sulfur to acidify the soil. A soil test would verify this. Hollytone has sulfur and iron which is what you would need. I would never use Hollytone at more than half the rate on the package and only in the spring before or during blooming.

If the slight yellowing is uniform, than that indicates a nitrogen shortage. Again, Hollytone would address this problem

Here is a link that might be useful: How to grow rhododendrons and azaleas.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 11:32AM
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