Once upon a time, azaleas bloomed only in early spring, putting on a spectacular show. And, two weeks later, they were done.
But with clever breeding programs and observant nurserymen, there are now many varieties of reblooming azaleas.
October through December is the best time to plant these robust rebloomers into your garden. Though they can be planted in spring and summer, they establish more easily during the fall. Planting now will give these shrubs time to send out roots into the surrounding soils and get adapted to the area before spring and summer.
It usually take azaleas one to two years to become fully established in the landscape. It is very important to monitor water applications during this establishment period. Be sure to plant all azaleas in an acidic soil ranging from 5.0-6.0 pH. Performing a soil test through the LSU AgCenter is the best way to determine your soil’s pH as well as fertility needs.
The Fashion azalea is one to consider. It puts on a wonderful display of salmon-to-orange-colored blooms beginning in early spring, similar to the traditional azaleas, and gives waves of fresh flowers throughout the remainder of the year.
Another remarkable selection is the Conversation Piece azalea. This variety was a Louisiana Super Plant Selection in 2012 and has lived up to its name, becoming a focal point of many gardens. A notable feature of the Conversation Piece azalea is the multiple colors of blooms, ranging from dark pink to nearly white. Brands such as Encore and Bloom-a-thon have many combinations of colors, sizes and textures to choose from.
Reblooming azaleas will consistently bloom for gardeners in early spring, but, as the name suggests, these shrubs will have at least one more bloom episode throughout the year. And in some varieties, more than two bloom sessions will occur. The flower count might be slightly less than that of the traditional azaleas.
Just like traditional azaleas, repeat bloomers have a rather small window to be pruned properly without reducing the quality of the bloom cycle. You don't want to prune while they're blooming or in late June, when buds are being set for the next year.
So pruning must be done after the shrub has finished blooming and before late June. If pruning occurs after June, the azaleas will give a less than adequate showing in spring.
When pruning in late spring, couple this task with an application of fertilizer if needed. Be sure to discard any clippings and weeds that were pulled while working this area of the garden. Leaving the clippings and weeds on the ground can harbor disease and insect pests, leading to unhealthy plants later in the season.
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