11 Tips For Growing Beautiful Azaleas in Pots or Containers
Are you thinking of growing azaleas in containers but aren’t sure where to get started? In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago will give you all of the answers you need to grow beautiful azaleas in containers.
Azaleas are famed for their brightly colored flowers that begin to bloom in late spring. These flowering shrubs are most commonly planted in flower beds or mass borders for maximum flower impact. Did you know those azaleas grow as beautifully in containers as they do in the ground?
Container gardening is growing in popularity and offers a great way to add these flowering beauties to your garden. If you do not have the space or growing conditions to grow azaleas in the ground, give container gardening a try!
Below are 11 tips to help you grow the most beautiful azaleas in containers. Let’s dig in!
Choose the Right Container
When selecting a container, the main thing you need to worry about is the pot size. Select a pot about twice as deep and twice as wide as the nursery container your azalea is growing in. This will give the azalea plenty of room to grow.
As far as materials go, select the material that you like best. Many gardeners love terracotta or ceramic pots. These are beautiful, and there are so many different options. If you plan on moving your pot inside for the winter, you may opt for a lighter material such as plastic, vinyl, or a fabric grow bag. Either way, choose the best aesthetic for you and your garden.
Selecting the Best Azalea
When choosing an azalea at the garden center, you will want to remember the size of the container you have and the expected mature size of the cultivar. There are plenty of smaller azalea varieties for your to choose from. Here are just a few to get you started!
|bloom colors Pale Pink with Deep Pink Freckles|
|height 2-3 feet tall, 2-3 feet wide|
|hardiness zones 7-10|
The Encore line of rhododendron is made up of reblooming azaleas. ‘Autumn Chiffon’ is just one of their beautiful options. The compact size of this azalea makes it perfect for container planting. The small size also lends this variety well to other planting locations.
Position your containers so ‘Autumn Chiffon’ will get between 4-6 hours of direct sunlight. This will help the plant to produce strong blooms.
|bloom colors Magenta|
|height 2-3 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide|
|hardiness zones 6-9|
‘Bollywood’ is a perfectly sized azalea for your containers. This plant produces magenta flowers in the springtime.
Even though this is not a reblooming azalea, it still provides year-long interest. The leaves on ‘Bollywood’ are beautifully variegated and semi-evergreen.
|bloom colors Magenta|
|height 2-3 feet tall, 2-3 feet wide|
|hardiness zones 6-9|
‘Doubleshot Watermelon’ produces beautiful double flowers in a bright shade of magenta. Lucky for us gardeners, this is another reblooming azalea variety that will produce two rounds of blooms each year. ‘Doubleshot Watermelon’ is an evergreen azalea that will hold onto its beautiful glossy leaves all year long.
|bloom colors White|
|height 1-2 feet tall, 2-3 feet wide|
|hardiness zones 6-8|
‘Gumpo White’ is a beautiful white option. The flowers on this plant are white with green throats. The leaves are small and bright green.
The foliage is also evergreen and will remain bright all year long. Gumpo white is slightly wider than it is tall and would be beautiful growing in a container.
Get your Container Ready
Whether using a brand-new container or one you have had for years, cleaning your pot before you plant anything in it is best.
Spray the pot down with a hose, and use a rag or scrubbrush to remove debris. If your container is in really bad shape, you may want to use diluted vinegar or diluted bleach solution to help you clean it up.
Drainage holes are very important. If your pot does not have any, or if you want to add a few more, this is the time to do it.
Use the correct drill bit to drill your holes, depending on your container’s material. A diamond-bit drill is great for ceramic. If you have a plastic pot, you can use a hammer and nail to poke a few holes in the bottom of the pot.
Choose an Acidic Potting Soil
It can be very tempting to use garden soil to fill your containers. This would definitely be the more economical way to go. Unfortunately, it is not always the best solution for your plants.
Garden soil tends to be heavy and may hold onto too much water, which can cause all sorts of fungal issues. But more importantly, it’s often not acidic enough for an azalea.
Head to your garden center and purchase good-quality potting soil. If you can find potting soil specifically formulated for acid-loving plants, that would be even better!
Plant the Right Way
When ready to plant, gently remove the azalea from the nursery pot. If it appears root bound, gently use your hands to loosen the root system up.
Place it into your container. Make sure that the plant crown is 2 inches above the soil line. This will ensure that your azalea is getting enough airflow and that the shrub’s crown will not stay wet for too long.
Lightly pack the soil around the plant and water!
Find the Best Spot for Your Pot
Azaleas grow well in full sun or partial sun, depending on the variety you selected. Place your pot in an area where it will get a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight per day.
The more sun your azalea gets, the more compact and prolifically blooming it will be. These flowers may not last as long as those growing in some shade.
Partially shaded azaleas will be slightly more leggy but produce beautiful, long-lasting flowers. Choose which is best for you.
Potted azaleas are beautiful beside a front door or walkway. They also make a very nice privacy screen or barrier when clustered together or positioned in front of an unsightly element in your yard, such as an air conditioner.
Add Companion Plants
Azaleas can hold their own in containers without any help from any companions. But if you are thinking you want to add some pizzaz to your containers, here are a few options:
- Small annual or ornamental grasses
- Petunias or Million Bells
- Coral Bells
- Small Hostas
- Non-Stop Begonias
- Impatiens or New Guinea Impatiens
Use Good Watering Practices
Azaleas are shallow-rooted plants. This is important to remember, especially when growing azaleas in containers. You will need to water these potted shrubs more frequently than you would if they were growing in the ground.
Use the rule of thumb and ensure your azaleas get about one inch of water per week. Keep your eyes on the leaves. If they are beginning to look a little droopy, chances are, you need to water your shrubs.
You can also use a moisture sensor to keep track of how much water your azalea needs. Simply insert the sensor in the dirt of your container. When you need to water, the sensor will turn white. If enough moisture is in the soil, the sensor will be blue.
Don’t Forget to Fertilize
Don’t forget, but also don’t overdo it when fertilizing your azaleas. These flowering shrubs do not need a ton of fertilizer.
Using water-soluble fertilizers, you can provide plenty of food for your azaleas and their companions. However, remember that azaleas like acidic conditions.
A fertilizer that is optimized towards an acid-loving plant is ideal for them, and generally, they’ll only need an application of an acid-lover’s fertilizer once or twice each year.
Prune as Needed
The best time to prune azaleas is right after the shrub has finished blooming. This will help keep any flower buds intact.
If you believe that your azalea needs a hard and rejuvenating pruning, this is best done in early spring. Only remove one-third of the plant at a time to avoid any shock.
Prepare for Winter
When the warm summer begins to wrap up, it is time to decide if you want to overwinter your potted azaleas.
One option is to remove the azalea from its container and plant it into your landscape. If possible, you will want to do so in September to ensure your azalea has enough time to get used to its new home.
If you want to keep your azaleas growing in your container for years, you will want to protect your container from cold temperatures. You don’t need to worry about protecting the foliage so much; it is the root system that you should be most concerned with.
You can dig holes and sink your container in the ground, but that can get tricky if your containers are large. Other options are a garage or garden shed that gets indirect sunlight but will keep the roots safe from exposure to the winter elements.
Azaleas are beautiful additions to your garden, no matter how you plant them. Container-planted azaleas offer a whole new wow factor to your yard and allow you to grow these flowering shrubs when you may not otherwise have been able to.
Remember to keep a closer eye on these potted plants since they will need a bit more water than they normally would growing in your flower beds. Choose the azalea you love the most, and you will be well on your way to a new happy potted plant for your landscape!