For years Azaleas have had the reputation of being a hard grow plant, and many years ago they probably were. With the abundance of information available to us today allowing us to have access to the latest growing techniques for any plant we want to grow, we tend to forget that our great- grandsparents, and even our grandsparents often had to learn their growing techniques by trial and error, and a lot of plants that had particular soil, light, or food requirements were more often than not, put into the difficult or hard to grow category. That reputation has unfortunately stuck with them over the years.
Azaleas are not hard to grow. As with a lot of other plants there are a few rules that must be followed to create the right growing conditions, but once established azaleas are very easy to look after.
Azaleas come in a wide range of colors, white, pink, red, purple, orange and yellows, as well as many multi-colors. There's single and double flower varieties, there are varieties with tiny insignificant flowers but popular because of their deeply colored leaves. All of them are beautiful plants worthy of a place in any garden, but the single flower varieties are the hardiest and more suited to sunny positions, but they do have a more limited color range than the doubles.
The first thing to do is decide where in your garden you want to grow your azalea plants. If you are planting into the ground, try to find areas on the South and East side of your home, where they will be more protected from very hot sun. When selecting the areas keep in mind that the single flower azaleas are more sun tolerant, but still need to be protected from the very hot sun, and doubles will always need to have moderate shade.
Azaleas will not tolerate alkaline soil and prefer a rich acid soil with a PH level from 5-6. PH test your soil, if you live in an area where the soil is naturally high alkaline, then you may need to consider growing your plants in tubs or pots. PH testers can be purchased from nurseries and hardware stores, they're inexpensive but a valuable tool to have.
Once you've decided where you're going to plant your azaleas, and you know the PH of the soil, the next important step is to dig the area over really well, you need to add plenty of peat moss, leaf mould or other organic matter like well rotted cow manure to increase the soil acidity as well as to increase the moisture holding capacity of the soil.
The roots of azaleas need to be kept cool and moist, but not wet, which means you'll need to ensure that the soil drain in the area you've chosen, is very good. In heavy soil it's a good idea to dig in plenty of Gypsum or a good clay breaker, although a safer alternative is to build raised beds and …