Azaleas are hard to beat if you’re looking for a low-maintenance plant that produces masses of bright color and attractive foliage. Some deciduous types produce gorgeous autumn colors, while evergreen varieties add year-round interest to the garden. Neat and compact, azaleas are well-suited for container growing. If the prospect of growing azaleas in containers piques your interest, read on for more information about caring for azalea plants in pots.
Growing Azaleas in Containers: Getting Started
Azaleas are ericaceous plants, which means they thrive in acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. This is one advantage of growing azalea in planters, as you can easily control the quality of the growing medium. Look for a potting soil mixed specifically for acid-loving plants, or create your own by mixing half potting soil and half fine pine bark.
Plant your azalea in a container that provides ample growing space for the roots and keep in mind that a small container will limit growth. Be sure the container has at least one drainage hole, as azaleas are likely to rot in poorly drained soil.
Plant the azalea at the same soil depth it was planted in the nursery container. Planting an azalea too deeply can cause the crown to rot.
Water deeply immediately after planting, then cover the top of the soil with a thin layer of mulch to keep the roots cool and moist.
Azalea Plant Care in Pots: Location
Azaleas thrive where they are exposed to sunlight during the morning, but protected by shade during the afternoon. A location in partial or dappled sunlight is also ideal. Azaleas don’t do well in total shade or intense sunlight, or in temperatures above 85 degrees F. (29 C.).
Most azalea types perform well in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. Azaleas are hardy and tolerate cold, but container plants are more exposed. Protect your plant during the winter, if needed, or bring it indoors until spring.
General Care for a Potted Azalea Plant
Water azalea in planters whenever the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. Check your plant daily during hot, dry weather; potted azaleas dry quickly. Use rainwater, if possible, as rainwater is less alkaline than tap water.
Feed the plants every month between spring and late summer, using a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants. Alternatively, use a slow-release fertilizer a couple of times during the season.
Deadhead azaleas regularly to keep the plants neat and promote continued flowering. Prune your azalea immediately after flowering if the plant looks straggly, or if a trim is needed to maintain the desired size and shape. Don’t wait too long to prune, as pruning close to blooming time will reduce the number of flowers.