Van Chaplin, Joseph De Sciose
I have a soft spot for azaleas. I associate them with Easter egg hunts, Masters Tournament golf, and my Aunt Nana. I can smell the light perfume of a 'George Lindley Taber' azalea in my dreams. But over the years, I have fallen in and out of love with azaleas. This fickle relationship is partly my fault, as there have been times when I haven't followed my own advice and remembered to ask these questions before planting them.
Design Tips for Planting
For the best effect, plant azaleas of the same hue in generous drifts, and sandwich them between other shrubs. To guarantee that the flower color matches your existing azaleas and complements your home, buy plants while they're in bloom. When in doubt, white is usually a safe bet. Resist the temptation to plant one of every color.
Attractive foliage and ultimate size should guide your selection when using azaleas close to your house. To avoid excessive pruning, buy an appropriate azalea selection for the space. Ideally, shrubs should fall 6 inches beneath the sill of a window at their tallest. If you must prune, do so immediately after they flower.
A Wealth of Options
For backdrops and screens, use tall-growing azaleas such as vigorous, evergreen Southern Indica Hybrids, including 'Formosa,' 'Mrs. G. G. Gerbing,' and 'George Lindley Taber.' Plant them in drifts as you would other evergreen types, or use as accents. Many deciduous azaleas make wonderful small trees. Good ones to try include Piedmont azaleas ( Rhododendron canescens), flame azaleas ( R. calendulaceum), and the Knap Hill-Exbury Hybrids. Expect heights to range between 4 and 12 feet.
In island beds, borders, or near the home, use medium-height azaleas, 3 to 6 feet tall. Examples include cold-hardy Glenn Dale Hybrids, such as 'Fashion,' 'Copperman,' and 'Glacier,' as well as dense, small-leaved Kurume Hybrids, such as 'Coral Bells' and 'Sherwood Red.'
For small gardens, choose more compact azaleas. Heights range between 1 and 3 feet. Late-blooming Satsuki Hybrid favorites include 'Gumpo,' 'Bunkwa,' and 'Flame Creeper.' Cold-hardy North Tisbury Hybrids may stay low, but allow at least 4 feet for them to spread out. Selections include 'Alexander,' 'Michael Hill,' and 'Pink Pancake.'
This article is from the April 2005 issue of Southern Living.