Azaleas can be grown successfully in Central Oklahoma, but only if grown under correct requirements. These requirements include: proper sun/shade location, well-drained soil with high organic matter, correct soil pH, regular fertilizing, and regular watering.
Bright light is necessary for growth and bloom. Morning sun, filtered afternoon sun, sun through overhead tree branches and against north or east facing walls and fences are all good locations for azaleas. Insufficient light is often the cause of poor blooming. Azalea plantings are not recommended for planting in southern or western exposures.
Lack of good soil drainage is the number one cause of failure with azaleas. Both surface and subsurface drainage is required. In clay soils this is best accomplished by planting azaleas in raised beds. These beds need only be 10-12” deep as azaleas are shallow rooted. Be sure there are drain holes in the bottom of the raised bed to allow drainage of excess water. Fill the bed with a 50/50 mix of Back To Earth Composted Cotton Burrs and Sphagnum Peat Moss. Azaleas prefer an acid soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5, so add 1-2 pounds of HiYield Soil Sulphur per 100 sq. ft. of bed area to the soil surface. In sandy or well-drained soils where a raised bed may not be necessary, dig a continuous trench 8-10” deep and 6-12” wider than the root ball and backfill with the above mix of Back To Earth, Peat Moss, and Soil Sulphur.
Water the new soil mix thoroughly before planting, as peat moss can be difficult to moisten the first time. Plant azaleas with the top of the root ball level or slightly above the top of the azalea mix. Firm the moist mix around the azalea and cover the area with a 2-3 inch layer of Pecan Hull Mulch, Grade A Cedar Mulch, or Grade A Cypress Mulch. Do not cover the stem of the plant with mulch.
Apply Osmocote 17-6-10 with Minor Nutrients. Use 5 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. yearly in the spring after the plants bloom. Use less on plants that have reached their desired height. If spring growth appears stunted, repeat the application of 1-2 lbs. of HiYield Soil Sulphur per 100 sq. ft. to the soil surface to lower the pH. For spring growth that appears dull-colored or yellow, apply Ironite or Miracid (30-10-10) with Iron. Miracid can be applied once a month through May to the foliage and the soil surface.
Water is another major key to good growth of azaleas and must be supplied to the plants on a regular basis. Plant roots must be moist, but the soil must not be waterlogged. If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with rain, provide ½ to 1” of water per week during the fall, winter and early spring. Azaleas require daily watering during hot, dry periods. Adequate moisture is especially necessary during the bloom period. Remember, watering must be done often enough so the bed never dries out, always feels cool and moist to the touch, but doesn’t drown the soil and plant.
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