By Allen Owings
In gardening, the environment plays a major role in landscape plant success. Across the Encore®Azalea growing region, it is not uncommon to see hot and dry conditions over the summer months. What special care can be given to achieve the best performance during these times and into the fall?
Spring growing conditions may affect your Encore®Azaleas during the summer months. If your region is cooler and wetter than normal during the spring, then summer turns into warmer than normal temperatures, there is more potential for heat-stress. Azaleas in full sun will show more stress than azaleas in partial sun to partial shade.
Special care for your Encore®Azaleas in the summer months should include monitoring water availability. Maintaining optimal soil moisture levels is critical. Manage irrigation properly by applying 1-inch of water weekly when rainfall is lacking. Irrigate slowly and deeply and 2-times weekly instead of quickly, shallowly and 3- to 4-times weekly. Apply irrigation in the root zone area instead of over the foliage canopy of your plants.
Mulching Encore®Azaleas with pine straw or another preferred mulch conserves soil moisture and lessens soil temperature fluctuations in the root zone. This keeps roots cooler during the summer months.
Do not fertilize Encore®Azaleas during the summer months. Fertilization after flowering is complete in the spring is recommended. Avoid severe pruning in the summer months. This will also stress the plants by stimulating too much new foliage growth. Any pruning that is done should only include light tip pruning.
You will recognize summer heat stress in Encore®Azaleas by withering flowers or flower buds (those that are setting for the fall), drooping leaves, loss of green foliage color (bluish-gray color), diminished root growth and increased attractiveness to insects.
But, you can keep Encore®Azaleas healthy, happy and growing for a spectacular fall-blooming show by irrigating when needed, keeping plants well mulched and following the recommended azalea care practices.