Arranging and the Roots
Arrange the azaleas in the bed while they are still in their pots to get the spacing and arrangement right. When you get ready to plant and take the plant out of the pot, you may see a very dense network of roots around the outside of the root ball. This is not uncommon in container-grown plants. Use a knife to vertically cut into the root ball in several places, or use your fingers to pull apart the root ball and loosen it up. This will encourage the roots to grow out into the surrounding soil and increase the plant’s chances of survival. Do not do this if planting in the stressful summer months.
Azaleas need/prefer a raised bed with high amounts of organic matter and good drainage. Planting azaleas where there is a clay based soil is also problematic. If you are not going to spend time and effort on bed preparation, do not plant azaleas.
How to Plant
You should always plant azaleas so that the top of the root ball is at or slightly above the soil level in the bed. Make sure azaleas have a damp root ball at planting. You do not want to plant them when they are dry or when the landscape bed is dry. Do not plant azaleas too deep! In addition, keep in mind that azaleas are shallow-rooted and benefit greatly from mulch. As soon as they are planted, mulch the bed with about 2 inches of pine straw, leaves or pine bark.
The Acid Soil
Azaleas prefer a moderately acid soil. Usually, the most ideal growth and nutrient availability occurs at a soil pH of around 5.5. If the soil in your garden is alkaline, apply ground sulfur, aluminum sulfate, ammonium sulfate or copperas (iron sulfate) during bed preparation according to package directions to help make the soil in the bed more acid. Don’t guess about soil pH. Conduct a soil test. All land-grant universities have soil testing labs where you can get this done. In beds where azaleas are currently growing, use copperas or a commercial soil acidifier if the pH needs to be lowered.
YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL WITH AZALEAS! Consider following these PLANTING guidelines. Azaleas prefer more sun than shade so consider location where they will be planted.