Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Azalea Envy

Azaleas grow well in this part of the country.  Almost everyone's yard has at least one azalea, and many yards have numerous azalea plants.  When I started gardening, I decided I did not want any azaleas - they were too common.  I wanted something different.

It took time for me to realize that the plants that are common here are common for a reason.  The conditions for them are right for their success.  Slowly, I became fascinated with the azaleas that put on a show every spring.

So I tried my hand at azaleas.  Much to my surprise, they didn't do well for me.  I decided to dig them up out of the garden and try something else.  Still, I was intrigued by the showy azalea blooms in almost everyone else's garden and the color they brought each spring.  I tried again.

Again, I failed.  And a few years after that I tried again.  And again, I failed.  So, did I give up?  No.  I got stubborn.  (Something I do very well - just ask my mother!)  I decided I would have azaleas!  After all - everyone else has azaleas!  I couldn't be that big of a failure!  It was quite frustrating.

Especially when every year the azaleas go on sale here for $2 to $3 each.  I've had white azaleas, beautiful light pink azaleas, and I-can't-remember-the-color azaleas.  None of them worked.  I have one left (out of all those!) - and it never blooms.  (These do not include the native, deciduous azaleas that actually are thriving in my garden.)

So, what did I do - again?  You guessed it!  I got suckered in by the annual azalea sale.  And I bought several bright pink azaleas this time.  I plan to put them in a place different than all the other spots I have tried growing azaleas.  They are sitting in their pots, waiting patiently for me to place them in the ground.

Then, we shall see.  If I fail again this year, I am off the azalea obsession!  I promise!

Although.... I think there might just be one more spot I haven't tried yet.....

Is there a plant everyone else grows, but just won't grow for you?


  1. I have successfully killed three azaleas in the past two years and you know what ... I ain't giving up either.

  2. Haha, I have lots of them and only managed to kill one so far. This is one plant I am actually "good" with. Jokes aside, the horticuluralist I met on Saturday told me that when I plant the azaleas, to put some bark chips at the bottom of the hole. And to fertilize with organic seagro (fish emulsion type fertiliser that gets mixed with water). Strangely enough, thats exactly what I've been doing - so maybe its why I have gotten it right.

    Good luck with them - looking forward to seeing photos!!

  3. OH I hope they work for you! I killed the one I tried to grow, but they aren't as common up here. Good luck!

  4. Nooooo don't give up on the Azaleas...once establisbled you'll have them forever!

  5. That's amazing that azaleas haven't thrived for you. Everything else seems to. Do deer eat azaleas?

  6. ONG - I know how you feel!

    GardeningBlog - Thanks for the tips! I have heavy clay here, so maybe the chips in the bottom of the hole are the answer!

    Hanni - Obviously, they are harder than they look!

    Darla - Thanks for the encouragement. I will press on.

    Marcha - Not everything thrives here! I don't know if deer eat azaleas or not. Since I've always killed them, that hasn't been a problem so far.

  7. Basil. Simple, humble basil. I'd like to grow it in a pot in my balcony, as here in Italy it's most used in cooking for tomato sauce and "pesto" sauce (sauce of crushed basil, pine nuts, garlic, cheese and olive oil served with pasta as well), but every year I get a new failure... :(

  8. If you have Texas alkaline soil, there's your clue. Azaleas love acid, sandy soil underneath high shade like under big pines. Pine straw mulch will help make them happy. (I once boxed up pine straw and mailed to Janie. I think she could have found bales of it at the market for less than postage.) Azaleas also like good drainage. and the roots grow shallow, even after they were stuffed in that plastic pot. Spread them out well if rootbound in the pot. The only azalea I ever killed was badly rootbound when I bought it.

    The things I can't grow are highly susceptible to rootknot nematodes. Butterfly bushes are one, dahlias are another. I can root butterfly bushes from a stick in sterible potting soil, but once in my soil they just curl up and die.

  9. hmmm. we'll see. I'm betting you'll be experimenting until you find one that works. You should add some hollytone to the soil as a just in case measure though. And some sand. I have just the opposite problem (sand for soil) and I decided that if I wanted anything to live I needed to amend the soil.

  10. dona - Funny how what we can't grow is what we want so much. Maybe if we could grow it, we wouldn't want it! Good luck on your basil growing this year.

    Nell Jean - I know in Dallas and Austin the soil is usually alkaline. But it's very acidic here. And I have a grove of pine trees, so free pine straw mulch for me! I think it's either the drainage is not good due to the clay soil, or I expect them to be more drought-tolerant than they are. Thanks for the tips. I will make sure I spread their roots out well when I plant them. I'm sure I've been overlooking that. Didn't realize you had those nematodes. That's some bad stuff I hope we never get here.

    Jess - I should add a little sand to help the drainage. And I'm still thinking of more places to experiment with them, in case these don't work out!

  11. You really are persistent, and I hope it pays off this time. I remember the wonderful azaleas everyone had in Dallas, they were spectacular. We grew ours in dappled shade with lots of water. I hope yours work out.

  12. My plant is a gardenia. I am going to try it again but this time in a container.

    I would kill to have some of those pine needles. Only place I can find them (baled to buy) is the Natural Gardener in Austin, which is a bit of a hike for me now.

  13. Masha - Yes, everyone else's azaleas here are spectacular, too. I'm going to try all the suggestions everyone gave, and hopefully they will live. I don't want a lot of azaleas - I just want some!

    Tufa Girl - Gardenias are a bit picky, I think. I had some in the perfect spot, but of course, couldn't leave them be. I did something different in that area, transplanted them all, and they are doing terrible. Maybe when I get the azaleas whipped, I'll start in on gardenias!

  14. good luck! azaleas are great!

  15. Sprig - Only if they live for you! ;)


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