We’ve been enjoying quite a show these last few weeks with the area’s azaleas. Try as they might, even the best gardeners in most of the United States cannot have those lovely blooms that we take for granted. A unique combination of climate, soil and conditions have come together right here that give us these breathtaking flowers that we pass by for a month or so in the spring in this lovely part of Texas.
East Texas has the unique conditions that allow us to grow some of the most beautiful plants that you can have in a landscape, according to Keith Hansen, a Tyler County Extension horticulturalist. Some of the conditions that make these lovelies thrive here are abundant shade, frequent rainfall and sandy, well-drained, acidic soil. Want to see some lovely varieties of azaleas? You can go just up the road and enjoy the famous Azalea Trail in Tyler each spring or just drive our streets right here in Southeast Texas.
Wikipedia says that more than 10,000 different cultivars of azalea exist as gardeners have selectively bred them for hundreds of years. Azaleas are native to several continents including Asia, Europe and North America.
According to azalea historian Fred Galle, a group of plants called Southern Indica was introduced in the 1830s at a rice plantation in Charleston, S.C. The import of this azalea variety has lead to one of the largest gardens of azaleas and most popular garden tours in the country each March and April. Thousands of folks go to visit the plantation Magnolia-on-the-Ashley in Charleston to walk the lovely azalea gardens. In addition to our almost local Tyler Azalea Trail, another huge azalea festival is held annually in Mobile, Ala. Thinking internationally? Sobaeksan, Korea and Motoyama, Japan also celebrate the azalea with a spring festival.
There are several types of azaleas to choose from. They vary in bloom size and color. Some have double blooms, others single. Some varieties bloom earlier and some later in the spring. Some of these shrubs are compact while some are large. Some options you can look for are Kurume, Southern indica, Glendale, Robin hill, Rutherord and Satsuki. There are even choices to make within these groups, according to Hansen. The popular Encore azalea blooms a few times during the year. The most common azaleas are evergreen, but there are deciduous types too.
Just like with any landscape project, think about ultimate size of the azaleas you choose if you decide to add any into your own yard. Maybe a spot with partial shade of a large tree branch would be good. With a bed of early bloomers, mid-bloomers and late-bloomers, you could reap the rewards of blooms from the middle of March through May or longer. Give them a location without soggy soil or total shade. Fertilize for the best of blooms. The best times to feed your azaleas is when they begin to bloom and until July. Trimming is best done just after the blooms have gone. Without much care, you too can be the envy of any of those gardeners west of Houston.