The grand dames of your Southern garden deserve some TLC.

Azaleas are a signature of Southern gardens—we even featured them on the very first issue of Southern Living (in February 1966!). We love azaleas not only for their vibrant blooms but also because of how low maintenance they are. There are few plantings that are as hands-off as azaleas, and for a busy gardener, "hands off" is a magic phrase. While azaleas can practically take care of themselves—they're very independent once they're established—there are a few things you can do to ensure they thrive year after year.

Pay Attention to the Soil

Azaleas like well-drained soil. If your azaleas find themselves in too boggy a spot, they might begin to show signs of distress. They also thrive in soil that is slightly acidic—a pH between 4.5 and 6 is ideal. It is also a good idea to provide enough mulch at the base of the plant to keep the area moist and slightly acid. Azaleas with shallow roots, in particular, will dry out too quickly and will need more frequent watering.

Water When Necessary

If the soil your azaleas are planted in becomes too dry, the plants will not be happy. An optimal environment is composed of moist, well-drained soil, so if a dry period brings about drought conditions, uncoil the garden hose and give your thirsty azaleas just enough water to moisten the soil.

Prune Occasionally

It's a good idea to give your azaleas the occasional prune so that they don't become unshapely and, as The Grumpy Gardener says, "scraggly." However, it's important to prune during the proper time or you'll miss out on blossoms next year. Grumpy advises, "Because azaleas bloom on old wood, they produce flower buds on last year's growth. You won't hurt the plant by pruning during warm months, but if you want flowers, hide your clippers after spring. The best time to trim azaleas is just after they've finished blooming."

Azaleas don't require fertilizer, and they're not often damaged by insects or plant diseases, so if there are any unexplained ailments, seek out the help of your local agricultural extension office, who will be able to offer region-specific advice for your azaleas.

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Do you have blooming azaleas in your yard? Are they some of your favorite Southern flowers?