Grumpy Gardener Steve Bender shares tips and tricks on how to plant and care for one of the South's favorite plants. Azaleas prefer light shade and acid soil containing plenty of organic matter. Azaleas are the one group of plants Southerners never tire of learning about. Azaleas like a little of both shade and sun, but not too much of either. Plant them in blazing hot sun, and they may suffer leaf scorch or become targets for leaf-sucking pests such as spider mites and lace bugs. Plant them in dense shade, and they won't bloom. A good location is where they receive either dappled sun all day or sun in the morning and light shade in the afternoon. Use moist, acid (pH 5.5 or so), well-drained soil with lots of organic matter, such as peat, compost, chopped leaves, or ground bark. They won't grow in heavy clay, pure sand, or alkaline soil. If your existing soil is too bad to fix, plant azaleas in raised beds or containers. Spring and fall, when temperatures are cool, are excellent times to plant. But if you buy in spring when the azaleas are blooming, you'll be assured of getting the colors you want. Summer planting is okay, but you'll have to water frequently during hot weather.
[MUSIC] And now, the Grumpy Gardener. Hi, I'm Steve Bender, I'm Southern Living's Grumpy Gardener. [SOUND] Undoubtedly the most popular shrub, and a classic one for the South, that almost everybody has, is the azalea. In fact, in most neighborhoods that I know about there's a There's a rule. It's written into the covenants actually that says if you buy a house here. You have to plant azaleas. THey need to have good soil. When I say good soil, it needs to be well drained. You can't plant them in clay. They will die. They need to have acid soil. How do you get acid soil? While most of the soils east of the Mississippi River are already acid, but there are some things that you can do to further acidify your soil and make it good for growing azaleas. You like making your own coffee? Take the coffee grounds out and just kind of dump 'em around the base. The azaleas. Some people will even drive nails into the soil in various places around azaleas because as they rust they release iron, which again, acidifies the soil. There's lots of different colors. There's lavender, there's purple, there's red, there's pink, there's white. Don't plant one of each color. Man, that just looks tacky. It's not like you're putting one of those Sam Adams samplers out there or a pizza with everything. The best way to get impact with azaleas is plant a big sweep of all of one color. If you're planting them in front of your house, Think about how high your lowest windows are from the ground. If your lowest windows are a foot from the ground, don't plant azaleas in front of them or you won't be able to see outside. Now, what do you use to prune your azaleas? Not a chainsaw, not hedge trimmers, what you want to use is a pair of hand pruners, and you reach in Side that plant and you prune the branches back to different lengths. You don't want to make it look like you know, some guy who was just enlisted in the marines and just got buzzed off. People out in Texas, this is, they love azaleas just as much as people in Alabama and Georgia and Tennessee do, but their soil is completely wrong for growing azaelas. So you know what they do? They get some guy in there with a backhoe and he digs this big, deep trench, like two of three feet deep, take all of their soil out, then fills it all with a mixture of pine bark and peat moss and everything and nails it up. Just so that they could have azaleas. So if they're willing to do that kind of trouble and go to that kind of expense, that tells you a little bit about how much people in the south love azaleas. You can find out everything you need to know about southern gardening at Southern Living magazine and SouthernLiving.com