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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Spring Into Spring

Blooming rhododendrons and azaleas are a sure sign that spring is here and a new season has begun. Yet Indiana’s typically hard clay soils can lack the quality nutrients these plants need to survive. That’s why these plants need a good amount of care to grow well here.

Gardeners should take a few extra steps to ensure azaleas and rhododendrons have the best opportunity to grow.  These plants do not like to be in the full sun, so it is important to pick a location where they will be protected and the soil will be moist but not overly wet. Our soils in Indiana can become very hot and can dry out quickly. This can quickly stress the plants.

Good quality soil will make a difference. When installing a collection of plants, our company always brings in a highly organic soil mix that is a blend of topsoil and composted organic matter packed with nutrients for the benefit of the plants. Simply mixing in manure, peat moss, or compost can make a big difference in the health of these plants. Tilling the existing soil and blending in the new organic matter can really increase the quality of the soil, as well.  

Azaleas and rhododendrons are best planted in holes that are about twice the width of the root ball or the plant. Blending Holly Tone, a natural fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants, and a few handfuls of pine bark fines into the backfilled soil will also make a big difference in the health of the plant. The pine nuggets create several added spaces in the soil, which allow the roots to grow more freely through the soil. The nuggets are also slower to break down and will condition the soil, helping the plant. 

Existing azalea and rhododendron plants that are a bit scraggly or are turning yellow will also benefit from Holly Tone or Miracid. Both of these products can easily be found at your local garden center and are generally labeled as azalea and rhododendron fertilizers.

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