Azaleas are blooming in Shawnee and across Oklahoma.

Azaleas are blooming in Shawnee and other parts of Oklahoma. I went to Muskogee with a group last week and enjoyed seeing the azaleas in bloom and particularly liked seeing so many dogwood trees. I have found it very difficult to grow dogwoods in our part of Oklahoma.


I am always surprised when I conduct a search on Azaleas and realize that they are a part of the Rhododendron family. Southern Living Garden book says that there are over 800 species and 2000 plant selections! For now, I’m going to stick to the specie that I identify as azalea.


The first consideration when deciding to purchase azaleas for your yard is location. Most of these plants prefer a reasonably shady spot, perhaps under a tree, and on the east or north side of your home. The pH for the soil should be between 4.5 and 5.5. The soil needs to be damp but not soggy. Some people achieve this by constructing a raised bed and filling it with a mixture of ½ garden soil and ½ peat moss mixed thoroughly together before adding it to the bed. The root ball of the plant should be slightly above the soil. Mulch should be applied from about 4 inches from the trunk to the drip line of the plant. Pecan hulls make a nice mulch and help to insure acidity. In the fall, rake the mulch back so that the plant’s soil will not be abnormally warm and the plant can better adjust to cold weather.


Keeping the plants moist can be a challenge in the summer. When watering, be sure to mist the leaves. The plants absorb water there as well as through their roots. This should be done reasonably early in the day so that the leaves can dry before evening.


Pruning of azaleas can be done immediately after bloom, and only to shape them. Pruning should be completed by the end of June to avoid cutting off next year’s blooms. Fertilize with azalea food, not all-purpose type fertilizer. Bloom may be improved if the azaleas are fertilized with a half strength solution about ten days before the blooms begin to open.


If you are in the market for azaleas, you might consider the re-blooming varieties, some of which are advertised as blooming for up to 9 months. Be sure to read the plant tags concerning placement, height, and care including pruning instructions. Encore is the most prevalent variety and is usually available in red, white, and pink.