Gardening with Micki: The gardener shares tips for growing azaleas | Lifestyles


When the Muskogee Master Gardeners met recently, they heard a lesson in how to successfully grow azaleas. They couldn’t have had a better teacher than Ray Wright, owner of Green Country Landscaping. He has been cultivating the revered Muskogee flower for over half a century.

What perhaps sets him apart from other azalea growers in the area is that he has helped plant many azaleas that bloom every spring at Honor Heights Park. So if you want to try out your garden gloves for planting azaleas, here are Ray’s proven tips. The first tip is priceless.

“You have to dig a $ 10 hole for a $ 5 azalea. “

Remove Bermuda grass roots and weeds before planting. Do not hoe or dig around the plant as this will damage the shallow root system of the azalea.

Azaleas need at least three hours of sunlight per day during the growing season to flower. They prefer strong light in the morning; filtered in heavy shade in the afternoon.

They need well-drained acidic soil because they are plants with very shallow roots. Ray suggests planting Canadian spaghum peat and sand rather than soil.

Trim to control the size. Never prune after July 1st.

Mulch the plant with rotten pecan shells, cypress mulch and ground pine bark, to keep moisture in the soil. He cautioned: “Do not use black organic peat moss because it does not acidify the soil sufficiently.”

Use azalea fertilizer at half the recommended rate seven to 10 days before flowering. Apply the second application at full strength after the flowers have died.

Azaleas love rainwater and like to be watered twice a week.

Add mulch each fall.

Trim to control the size. Never prune after July 1st.

Ray has listed eight rare and unusual strains that adapt well to Oklahoma’s climate: El Frida, Janet Rhea, Ben Morrison, Orange Cup, Dayspring, Rosea, Conversation Piece, and Midnight Flare. He also pointed out that his landscaping company produces around 90 “tried and true” proven and hardy varieties.

He also added this caveat: “Beware of azaleas that are shipped from the southern Gulf states. They may look pretty, but they also may not be acclimated to this region. “

For more information on Master Gardeners in the Muskogee area, contact the OSU Extension Office: (918) 686-7200.

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