Local lifestyle columnists

Love those azaleas – they are hardy

By From page D4 | March 23, 2014

Ever seen those beautiful azalea plants at the garden center or the florist shop and wish you could have them growing in your yard? Would you believe that those azaleas (Rhododendron sp.) can be grown in the ground in your yard – that they are relatively easy to grow?

I cannot sustain a Rhododendron macrophllum or “Rhodie” at my house. All of the poor victims, whether planted high – elevated above ground level on a berm – or planted directly at ground level took an average of five years to slowly die. So I gave up on them.

Imagine my surprise (and horror) when my husband started giving me azaleas as birthday and anniversary gifts. I knew they were the next in line for death!

Imagine my shock when I planted the six plants (finally) in the ground and they not only grew but re-bloomed again and again. My mother was right (again)! Azaleas are wonderfully hardy bunch.

My azaleas are planted directly at soil level on the “wet” side of my gazebo.

The “wet” side is between the gazebo and the solid back fence, only five feet above sea level. That means that right now, those now large bushes have one to two inches of water around them and they are still thriving.

Have a potted azalea that has wilted? Dunk it, pot and all, in a bucket of water and leave there for at least 12 hours.

“Look ma, no wilt!” 

I’ve had some that soaked for a few days – no harm, no foul.

Some problems can and may affect azaleas in the yard. Among them are mildew, root weevils, leaf burn from wind and soil salts or sudden oak death ( Phytophthora ramorum). My plants have been in the ground for almost 15 years and no problems other than trusses of flowers crowding over the pathway.

Azaleas come in at least 15 hybrid groups for the evergreen variety and at least 12 groups of the deciduous variety. Find one that suits your needs and a color you like. You too can grow these beautiful plants to add pleasure and color to your yard.

PS: For information in gardening books about azaleas, check under Rhododendrons – you’ll save time.

Betsy Buxton is a Master Gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Fairfield. If you have gardening questions, call the Master Gardener’s office at 784-1322.

Betsy Buxton


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