Did you know?
Azaleas are a group within the Rhododendron genus – the latin name for Azalea is ‘Rhododendron’. There are two distinct types of Azalea, evergreen and non-evergreen.
Evergreen Azaleas (or Japanese Azaleas) keep their leaves in winter and are mostly small (up to 75cm/30ins tall).
Non-evergreen (Deciduous) Azaleas
Non-evergreen (Deciduous) Azaleas are considerably taller (up to 2.5m/8ft) tall). They are generally fast-growing and very hardy. They lose their leaves in autumn, but not before delighting us with a fiery show of spectacular autumn colour. New leaves grow in late spring. At flowering time, they become the star performers of the late-spring border. They produce the most dazzling display of beautiful, and often deliciously fragrant flowers, usually on bare, leafless branches. The flowers are typically shades of yellow and orange, but there are also varieties with pink, crimson and white-flushed flowers.
One fine example of a non-evergreen Azalea is the popular Rhododendron luteum. It has buttery-yellow flowers with powerful honeysuckle fragrance. In autumn it glows as its leaves turn to gold then copper.
Rhododendrons and Azaleas
Rhododendrons and Azaleas thrive in acid soil. Such plants are called ericaceous plants. They are also known as acid-loving or lime-hating plants.
Help them along by mixing ericaceous compost into well-drained humus-rich soil at planting time. Thereafter, each spring mulch the moist soil surface with a thin layer of ericaceous compost, pulverized bark, pine needles or leaf mould to trap in moisture. Feed with ericaceous fertiliser (e.g. Vitax Azalea, Rhododendron & Shrub Fertilizer) during the growing season. Keep plants well-watered in dry spells, particularly in late summer and autumn. The roots lie very close to the surface and should never be allowed to dry out. This will ensure a glorious display of flowers again in the following year.
Generally speaking, Rhododendrons and Azaleas do best in partial or dappled shade but here in the north give them a sunnier spot to allow for our reduced light levels.
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