Help save my azaleas

skorpio1313April 2, 2009

I hope this posted isnt too late.... My husband purchased 2 beautiful azaleas from the local farmers market. The lady who was selling them told him to make sure he bought some lime and mix into the soil, before planting, which we did. About 3 weekend ago, we went out and planted them. We dug nice big holes, sprinkled some of the lime into the hole and placed the bushes in there. They are located about 1 1/2-2 feet from the house and the soil has a lot of clay in it. We built the house about 4 years ago and it's that fill dirt and foundation dirt. I don't know what to do now...I watered them religiously everyday for the first 2 weeks and then last weekend I put some Miracle Grow for azaleas on them. They just don't look so good. The leaves are drooping terribly on one, and the other has some new growth, but it just doesn't look healthy. Should I be thinking about digging them and replanting in better soil. After the fact, I thought to myself, I should've dug bigger holes and mixed some potting or topsoil into the hole, but I didn't do that. Any suggestions here? I am not very experienced at gardening and keeping plants, bushes and trees alive and I don't want to kill these plants!! Help me please!?

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that is questionable advice from your source about adding lime to the soil for acidic loving plants like azaleas. lime will change the soil chemistry toward alkaline instead of acidic.
i would replant and take that out of the planting area. also, plant them no deeper than they were growing in the pot. if anything, plant just slightly higher and mulch the roots with pine straw or shredded bark. 18" is probably too close to the foundation. i would go no closer than 3' in anticipation of future growth. soils around the foundations can become alkaline from lime in the mortar leaching into the soil. you can add elemental sulfur or apply chelated iron to ameloriate the situation. a soil test would be best to give you indications of problems in that area.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2009 at 1:49PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

The lime recommendation is very strange since azaleas are acid loving plants and lime neutralizes any acidity you may have had. There are a few areas in the Pacific Northwest that are so acidic that the addition of lime is helpful. Most other places, the addition of a little powdered sulfur is more helpful.

There are two major problems that afflict newly planted azaleas.

First: The roots must be opened up and the root ball soaked before planting. If the root ball was heavy, then it probably was wet, but the roots need to be opened up, especially if it was in a pot. Ball and burlapped plants usually don't get as root bound.

Second: Too much water and poor soil will do them in. They need well drained acidic soil. If you have heavy clay, I recommend a raised bed with a good acidic soil mix which could be loam soil and peat moss mixed together. Plant higher in the ground than it was originally planted, never deeper.

If the leaves droop in the heat of the day and recover by morning, that is normal. If they droop in the cool of morning, then it is either too wet or too dry. Too wet can be fatal and cause root rot. Too dry can usually be caught in time.

Applying Miracid/Miracle Grow for Azaleas is not a good idea on a struggling plant since it is a potent fertilizer and will stress the plant. Once it is established, you can use a little good fertilizer like HollyTone once at half the rate on the package when it blooms, but not later in the summer.

So replant using no lime, open up the roots, and use a good soil mix on a raised bed. Don't worry about fertilizing this year.

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

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 9:58AM
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