CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Seeing all of those beautiful azaleas along the golf course at The Masters over Easter weekend made me take a closer look at the flowering shrubs in my yard. We planted many azaleas when we first started gardening, and we're down to two survivors -- one hot pink and one white.
The Azalea Society of America calls the popular shrub "the royalty of the garden." They are in the genus Rhododendron, which makes them popular here in West Virginia. The best-known azalea reference book is "Azaleas" by Fred Galle, published by Timber Press.
The Society lists the most common causes of death of an azalea as improper planting, root problems due to poor drainage or too much watering, overfertilizing or bark split due to colder weather or bigger temperature swings than the plant could withstand. Bloom is affected by many factors, including heredity -- some varieties bloom more than others.
According to the blog from Bob's Market in Mason County, azaleas can be a bit tricky to grow.
"I know I have received my fair share of azalea-related questions during my years here at Bob's," market technologist John Morgan wrote recently. "This week I turned to the United States National Arboretum website where they have a definitive guide to all things azalea."
Here's the information from www.usna.usda.gov about this beloved flowering plant:
"If you plant azaleas in late spring, it is very important to give them some extra water while they are growing new roots. Never let the soil completely dry out; it's best to keep the soil evenly moist. Too much water or poorly drained soil might be another explanation of sudden azalea death.
"Azaleas have very fine, fibrous roots that are easily damaged by waterlogging, even for short periods of time. Before you plant your azalea, dig a hole and fill it with water. If the water has not drained out of the hole within one hour, the soil is poorly drained and you must correct the drainage problem before planting. Install a perforated pipe or drain tile in the garden, making sure that the outlet is lower than the bottom of the planting hole, or build raised beds.
"Plant your azalea in early spring or early fall. If your soil is loose, well drained, and has lots of organic matter, planting will be easy. If drainage is poor, you'll need to correct the drainage problem or plant in raised beds. You can work in some well-rotted leaf mold or compost if the soil is short of organic matter.