Everyone including the agent got back safe and sound and the trip started me on a path that has lead to 18 years serving people in the Northwest Georgia area.
I have mentioned often how topics for articles are mainly seasonal and sometimes come to me by what I am seeing or questions I am fielding locally.
The idea to talk about azaleas is due to one fairly pitiful azalea growing at our home. As you know, my girls are pretty active kids. They play basketball, softball, show cattle and also show meat goats.
Over the last few years, we have accumulated a herd of the female goats after their show career is done. In addition, living on a family farm does allow to frankly open the gate from time to time and allow the goats to clean up some unwanted weedy areas.
Well, the goats have learned to un-gate themselves a few times and the poor azalea has took the blunt of the punishment.
I think the azalea is going to pull through, but it guided me to the topic today. I will be sharing some basic information from a UGA publication on azaleas authored by Dr. Gary Wade, Dr. Kristine Braman and Dr. Jean Woodward, all UGA specialists.
The first thing to consider in my opinion in azaleas is time of year to plant. Fall is the best time to plant due to less stress on the plants. When you plant in the fall, the weather is cooler and the plants are going into dormancy.
With the above ground growth slowing down, there is less demands on the root system. The roots will continue to become more established in the fall and winter even when the above ground visible part of the plant is dormant.
When spring happens, the plants are then ready to handle new growth. Note, you can plant azaleas in other times of year, but planting in summer will lead to more demand for care and being mindful of watering the plants.
Site selection with any plant is important. Azaleas enjoy moist, well-drained areas with soil that is high in organic matter. The authors state that filtered shade is best because some light is necessary for flower bud formation. Note that a site with morning sun and afternoon shade is normally a good site. Stay away from areas such as sidewalks or driveways due to radiate heat.
Radiate heat can cause moisture stress in the plants. Stay away from areas that stay overly wet and do not drain well.
Do keep in mind that azaleas do not handle drought well so be ready to irrigate in times that will pop up when the plants are needing supplemental water.
As always a properly taken soil test can help you with a fertilizing plan and to check the soil pH of your site. Azaleas enjoy a soil pH of 4.5-6.0. If the pH is much higher, you may be advised to lower the pH with a sulphur product.
Please note that our office is an option to run soil samples to our lab in Athens for $9 per sample. Feel free to contact us with questions before sampling.
I have jumped ahead with the previous points, but do your homework when selecting particular azaleas.
One of the first things to consider is cold hardiness. You need to see if the azaleas you may want to select are adapted to your cold hardiness zone. Azaleas will bloom at different times of the year and this point includes the native and hybrid azaleas.
According to the publication, one option is to plant an assortment of species and hybrid cultivars to extend the floral display.
Obviously when doing your research, keep in mind the mature size of your plants and the flower color.
You may want to plant items that when they bloom will match or go well together color-wise. Also, purchase plants that appear to be free of insects or disease. You want healthy looking plants that are well branched.
If you are allowed to inspect the root system, the roots should look light brown in color and healthy.
The roots should not be dark brown or appear rotten. For more information contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.