Not everything about the cold weather is bad. Sometimes it helps reduce yard pests for a while, it often forces us to do needed pruning and it brings out the best in the azaleas. Maybe you have noticed too that after a cold winter the azaleas produce more blooms or at least give better displays.
Cold weather seems to time the azaleas into blooming all at the same time instead of stringing the flowers out over a long period of weeks. The result is better displays. Right now the Southern Indian Azalea and Red Ruffles hybrids are coming into full bloom. George Lindley Taber is pictured on the left but there are also plenty of Formosa, Du de Rohan, Southern Charm and similar selections that do well in local landscapes. In fact they may be some of the best, seeming to be drought tolerant once established and they survive under varying soil conditions.
Maybe I have not tried enough different azalea varieties but the older types seem to outshine the newer selections. The older varieties seem to have more survivability under Florida conditions. You can get a list of the good azaleas for our location from your local University of Florida Extension office. No matter which azalea you pick here are some tips you need to know to have success.
- Plantings like the filtered sun the best. They have a yellow look in full sun and fail to flower in heavy shade.
- All need an acid soil to grow best. Have your soil tested and try to make adjustments. If alkaline you may not be able to grow good azaleas
- Keep the soil moist. Even drought tolerant types like moist growing conditions
- Improve soils with lots of organic matter
- Maintain a 2 to 3 inch mulch layer.
- Feed in March, May and August with an azalea/camellia type fertilizer
- Prune after flowering and before June first. All azaleas benefit from pruning to remove dead or declining wood. They also need periodic thinning to allow new growth.
- Keep lace bugs and leaf spot fungal organisms under control.