Friday, January 19, 2007
Azaleas and Rhododendrons
Azaleas and Rhododendrons are two of the most popular Spring Blooming plants. These hardy creatures will grow abundantly with the minimal but proper treatment. Azaleas are one of the most popular plants in the Acid-Loving family. Below are some tips concerning their care: The first and most critical factor in your gardening success is Soil pH. Some plants thrive in neutral soil while other plants such as Azaleas prefer a more acidic environment. The difference lies in the plant's ability to use nutrients present in the soil. For plants that prefer a more acidic soil, a critical nutrient is iron. Iron is most available in soil with a pH of around 5.5. Without iron these plants will turn yellow and suffer stunted growth. If you have do not know what the PH level of your soil is -- Yardiac.com has a full assortment of soil test kits in stock and ready for sale! Lowering soil pH is not difficult. In new plantings, work-in organic matter such as peat moss or compost. For existing plantings, regular feeding with Holly-Tone will keep soil at an optimum pH while providing all the major, minor, and trace nutrients plants required. How to Feed Azaleas & Rhododendrons Feed Azaleas in the spring with Holly-Tone and Acid Plus water soluble fertilizer. In general, the proper rate of application is one cup of Holly-Tone per foot of branch spread. This rate should be doubled for plants over three feet wide. Do not work the plant food into the soil as these plants have surface root systems that can be disturbed by such activity. It is best to apply the Holly-Tone directly to the soil prior to mulching. If this is not possible, Holly-Tone can be applied on top of mulch at double the standard rate. This will compensate for the loss of nutrients in the mulch layer. Of course always water the plants sufficiently and fertilize with Acid Plus. Fertilization should occur several times in the spring and fall. Do not feed acid lovers in the summer ( June 1st - September 1st). A second half-strength feeding of Holly-Tone is recommended in late fall. This will help harden off new growth, aid in root development, and enable the roots to store food for use in early spring. How to Prune Azaleas & Rhododendrons Azaleas and Rhodo's both begin to form their blooms for the next spring season in the late spring or early summer. Because of this bloom set it is critical that these plants be shaped or pruned immediately after the current year's bloom. Pruning should occur between May and July after all the plants have bloomed. Try to avoid pruning after August 1st because the blossoms are being set for next spring. Planting Azaleas & Rhododendrons When planting, a hole should be made roughly twice as large and twice as deep as the root ball. One third of the soil removed should be replaced with compost, peat moss or other good humus. To this, one cup of Holly-Tone per 2-1/2 gallon bucket of soil should be added and thoroughly mixed. There should be enough of this mixture in the hole to allow the new plant to sit at the same depth it was previously growing. The soil mark on the trunk can be used as a guide. The bottom of the hole should be packed firmly to prevent later settling. Once the plant is placed in the hole and filled half full with the soil mixture, it should be packed firmly, soaked with water, and allowed to settle. After the hole is completely filled, the top two inches should be left loose for easy absorption of water. A slight depression around the plant will also help conserve water. Adding mulch will also help conserve water, slow down evaporation, and control weeds. Often, plants will be purchased in plastic containers. When removing the pot, inspect the root mass. It is not unusual for the roots to have grown in a circular pattern around the inside of the container. If this is noticed, the roots should be disturbed SLIGHTLY to encourage new growth. Simply score the outside of the root mass with a knife to break the circular pattern.