Need advice on planting azaleas

dhoferMay 6, 2005

Hello to all - I am new to this forum and need your expert advice!

I will be planting 12 "Watchet" azaleas on the northern side of my house.

My soil is mostly clay so I know I need to work in some other material to loosen it and provide good drainage. What do you recommend and what proportion? Sand? Peat? Pine straw? Help!

Also, I am going to mulch the entire bed with black, hardwood mulch. Would it be ok to mulch the azaleas with pine straw and then put a layer of the hardwood mulch on top to give a uniform look?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Birdsong72(7/Northshore NJ)

If your house has a concrete foundation, the subtle leaching of lime from the block will only add to the slow death of your planting a dozen azaleas in clay soil. Sorry. I just thought you should know.

There are always other areas on your property where they can be planted and thus minimize the two pronged hurdle of excessive lime & clay soil.

Good luck

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 9:23AM
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Ouch! Would it help if I told you that I am not planting them right next to the house?

Actually, my house faces the north and I have a porch on the front that is 8 feet wide by 20 feet long. The porch is bricked all the way down the front into the soil about a foot.

I was planning on planting them in front of the porch.

Do you still think I will have the same problem?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 9:32AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Are there azaleas already growing successfully in your neighborhood? That can be a good clue as to how they will do in your soil. Azaleas are commonly used as foundation plants here where soil is naturally acidic and we have ample amounts of mildly acidic rain.

Azaleas need loose, moist, well-drained soil for their roots. If your soil is clay (like mine), mix it with as much as 50% organic matter, such as fine bark or rotted leaves, compost. When choosing such soil amendments, avoid materials which may be alkaline or "hot" (containing fresh manure), like the "mushroom compost" sold for use with perennials.

Loosen the rootball well when you take them out of the pots so that the roots may establish into the surrounding soil. If they are extremely rootbound and tight, with a sharp knife, cut these roots by making slits about 1/2" deep from the top to the bottom of the rootball, about every 2" or 3" around the rootball. Cut any matted roots off the bottom of the rootball.

If your soil is clay, you may want to plant a little higher than the azalea was growing in the nursery pot, then add mulch to within a couple of inches of the main stem.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 10:07AM
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Thank you for your help! I plan on amending the whole bed with organic material and raising them up a bit. Hopefully this will help.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 10:39AM
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We have lots of clay soil here. Even thought the acid level is good and the soil minerals and nutrients are not as leached out as clays commonly found in the northern Texas Fortworth area, it is still common practice here to throurougly wet dry Sorghamn peat moss (may have spelled that wrong,) withwhich we make a 6 inch tall raised bed. We then plant the potted azaleas or Rhododendrons directly into that peat bed. Then we cover the bed with 3-4 inchs of acidic type mulch. The azaleas love this treatment, because the raised bed quickly drains away any standing water that the soggly clay would hold onto excessively long. The roots stay moist in the peat, but do not rot due to too much wet.

Using the raised bed techinque also prevents the water pooling affect that happens when a good soil planting bed is put directly in the clay.

It does not do any good to insert an area of well draining amended soil in a clay piece of land. Even though the soil in the amended area drains well, the draining off water will have no where to go once it hits the virgin clay soil. Excessive water can build up in these situations and create underground at root level pools that stress and cause problems that often kill plant's, shrub's and even tree's roots.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 5:15PM
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I planted eight azaleas last week & re-planted a day or so ago. They still look the same almost out of there. What can I do ? Please help me save MY AZALEAS!!!!!!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 8:04PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Lisa, they are very slow growing. If they don't look like they are dying, don't worry.

By the way it is sphagnum moss, not sorghamn.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 6:47PM
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