Pot some Azaleas
Rhododendrons, or Azaleas as they are referred to here in South Africa, are amongst the most beautiful of all flowering trees and shrubs. Unfortunately, they require specialised growing conditions in order to thrive, and many parts of the country are not ideally suited to growing Azaleas in the garden.
It’s in these areas that they are best cultivated in pots, where soil quality and moisture levels can be controlled. Azaleas enjoy well-drained, loamy soils with a low (acidic) pH level. Over and above this, they enjoy cool roots and foliage, especially during the hot summer season.
While these conditions prevail naturally in parts of the higher escarpments in the country, for most gardeners in the drier or humid subtropical reaches, potted azaleas are the order of the day. Fortunately even the florist Azaleas sold in little pots for indoor decoration can be potted on into larger pots and grown outdoors.
Floragard Rhodohum is a ready-to-use speciality soil for planting lime sensitive Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Heathers, Camellias and other ericaceous plants. This product can also be used to fertilise plants already in the ground and supply main and trace elements for up to 6 weeks so that plants grow stronger and bloom longer.
Leca is a lightweight expanded clay aggregate that has several uses in gardening. It can be used as a mulch, a drainage material or a water-retention material to save water. It can also be used as a medium for hydroponics or aquaponics, or to plant orchids or propagate cuttings in. It is pH neutral, durable, anti-fungal and resistant to insects.
Here is the simple step-by-step procedure for potting Azaleas
• Select a suitable pot. It needn’t be too large or too deep, as azaleas have surface root systems.
• Place a layer of drainage pebbles in the base of the pot, covering all drainage holes.
• Cover the drainage pebbles with permeable membrane material.
• Half-fill the pot with special soil for rhododendrons and acidic-soil plants. We used Floragard Rhodohum.
• Remove the Azalea from its nursery container and place it in the pot. Make sure that it is not buried deeply, but rather leave 10-20 mm of the root ball above the soil level.
• Fill in with soil and firm down gently.
• Mulch with a suitable material. We used Leca lightweight expanded clay aggregate. This keeps roots cool and well aerated.
• Place the pot in a semi-shaded position and water well.