First winter for Azaleas - water?

bveronicoNovember 15, 2013

First post!

I've spent hours looking for advice on here but I can't find help on this topic so here I am.

I have 4 Bloom-A-Thon azaleas and 2 "something" azaleas that have darker, tougher leaves that were all planted between August and early October. They range in size from 18 inches down to 10 inches high (tiny!)

I can't find solid info on watering now that we've had our first freeze (and snow!) I stopped watering a few days before the freeze since I didn't want to hurt their roots. But now it has warmed up for a few days and I don't know if I should water again or not.

They have almost 2 inches of pine mulch, and just before the freeze I crumbled tree leaves (not oak) and piled at each plants' base for extra insulation so they have leaf mounds about 6 inches deep around them now.

Any ideas?

I will be back later to provide any more details needed. Attached picture is from about a month ago before adding mulch. They get sun early morning for a couple hours.

Thank you!

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I'm not sure what your weather situation has been - in the upper Northeast we really have not had any significant rain since early September. All rhododendrons and azaleas winter better if they enter the cold with adequate moisture. This is especially true of newly planted ones. If you have experienced droughty conditions and the soil is dry, watering with a slow trickle near the base of each plant during the current warm spell is a very good idea.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 5:40AM
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Thank you akamainegrower! Mother-nature decided for me last night as rain moved through. Yep, we had a very dry Fall so far and I had been watering when the soil was dry but kept reading about "hardening off" in the Fall and was worried I had watered too much up until now. Of course the articles about hardening off were about regular or Encore azaleas so I wasn't sure.

Even though they are young and its the first year in the ground, should I stop watering when real Winter cold sets in? Hmm.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 8:00AM
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Once the ground freezes and/or plants are fully dormant, there's no need to water. Even though you've had some rain, it would still be worth checking one or two of the azaleas to see what the moisture situation is around the root area. If it's moist, you should be all set for the winter. If this area is dry, it would still be worthwhile to employ the trickle method of watering for all of them.

The other thing that will help them make it through the winter in good shape is protecting the leaves from sun and wind. This is especially true for newly planted evergreen azaleas. Evergreen boughs are good for this and may be available even in the city around Christmas or right after. Light weight landscape fabric or burlap held away from direct contact with the plants are also good.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 5:57AM
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Thank you!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 9:48AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Two additional concerns.

1) It is not good to have the mulch actually touch the main stem of the plant. Creatures like voles tunnel under the mulch and love to nibble on the bark and will girdle stems of azaleas, killing them. Move the mulch back a couple inches from the stems.

2) I hope you didn't use walnut leaves. Black walnut leaves are toxic to azaleas.

If we have any warm spells during the winter, it is a good idea to water unless rain is adequate. Of course watering is of little help when the ground is frozen, but during warm spells, if the ground thaws out, a good watering is good, especially for new plants. Your new plants will have two enemies, winter sun and winter wind. There are antidessicant sprays like Wilt Pruf than can be used, especially during the first winter. Unfortunately they don't last all winter and must be reapplied during mid winter.

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

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 10:46AM
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Thanks for the advice Rhodyman! I was wondering if I should be watering during warm spells just now :) We had some very warm temps this week and after tomorrow it will go back to winter like temps but since we're getting some rain tomorrow I think I'll not water this time.

The mulch is not touching the stems at all - I read this forum quite well before adding it :)

And the leaves that went over the mulch are from the apple tree in my yard, and the mulberry trees in the neighbor's yard. I crumbled them up before placing so the water could get through better.

About wind and sun - I have been wondering if I need to worry about that seeing as the South and West of my little south-facing yard (16 feet wide with my plantings on the left of the South end under the trees) is blocked by buildings? During the summer, the whole yard is in full shade after 9am and now I noticed on sunny days the sun doesn't reach the plants because even with the leaves gone, the buildings are so close that they still block the sun. What do you all think? Here's a different pic for perspective.

This post was edited by brooklynbonnie on Thu, Dec 5, 13 at 17:49

    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 5:43PM
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