The Q&A Archives: Dying Azaleas

Question: I planted approx 30 1-gallon azalea bushes this past spring. We had a very dry hot summer. They have all died out including some bushes I planted approximately 3 yrs. ago. The new bushes were planted under a sweet gum tree that provides afternoon shade. My question is concerning whether the sweet gum tree is bad for the azaleas. I am wanting to replace the bushes in the same area.

Answer: No, the trees are not bad for them and in fact may help protect them from the full brunt of the summer sun. Before replanting, make sure and work lots of compost or peat moss into the soil in the planting bed.

When you set the plants, cut down the outer surface of the root ball about 1" deep in 3 places and tear the cut open a bit to encourage root branching and better establishment. Azaleas can become root bound quite easily and such plants do not establish a good root system when transplanted. Scoring the root ball will help fix that.

Set the plants at the same depth they were growing in the container and water them in well. During the first critical summer of establishment, make sure the plants are kept moist but not soggy-wet. A good soaking once or twice a week will usually suffice.

Good luck and please stop in and visit us again soon.

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