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RE: Care of Red Ruffles (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: luis_pr on 04.20.2008 at 06:31 am in Azalea & Rhododendron Forum

Hello, jimbelle. I like reds like Red Ruffles too. Unfortunately, my dogs killed a bunch a those shrubs trying to get to something on the other side of the fence! Pooches! They split the main trunk of a few and dug under others. Squirrels are the usual causes for that type of behaviour. The dogs see them on the fence or on trees and then they go ballistic.

RR is very good here in the South. It seems to withstand more sun than other varieties of azaleas but you should still try to place them in part shade; that means about four hours (or less) of morning or dappled sun in a location where the acidic soil drains well.

If a half-foot hole full of water does not drain in approx four hours then you do not have good drainage (you probably have clay soil) and must use raised beds. If it drains too quickly then you have sandy soil and will benefit from raised beds or soil with lots of mixed in organic compost.

Do a soil test to check how acidic your soil is. RR will do best in soils where the pH is approximately between 5.0 and 6.0 but do not break the bank if your readings are 0.5 off from those.

My alkaline soil forces me to add soil Sulphur or liquid iron chelated products once a year or so. I also watered them using rain water when possible but that is not a RR requirement; all azaleas will benefit from this if you live in alkaline soil (because your hose water will probably be alkaline too).

I apply some cottonseed meal or Holly Tone fertilizer in early March because my azaleas bloom early. Throughout the rest of the year, I add minor fertilizers like liquid seaweed and coffee grounds from Starbucks. Then I stop all types of fertilizing in July/August. While fertilizing, remember to water, fertilize & water again� this is the only time when I try to get the shrub wet so I do it early in the day.

Azaleas are not big feeders like roses are and do not respond to extra fertilizer application like roses do so do not overapply fertilizers. Assuming that your soil has average amounts of minerals, azaleas could feed of decomposing mulch alone. I add about 4" of mulch a little past the drip line due to the high temperatures here in the South but you can do with 3-4" of mulch depending on where you live.

Deer and, over here, squirrels can be a nuisance as they like to eat the flower buds so take appropriate action if these animals thrive where you live.

Water the shrubs often until they get established to your garden. Your first year should require lots of monitoring in this area. For the first few weeks, you may want to check their water needs manually. Azalea roots grow mostly on the top four inches so they tend to dry quickly as the top soil dried faster.

Insert a finger to a depth of 4" and water when the soil feels almost dry or dry. Note on a calendar when you are watering and observe if a watering pattern develops (you water every 3/4/5 days). Then set your sprinkler/drip irrigation to water about 1 gallon of water every 3/4/5 days. Re-check manually when your temperatures go up or down by 10-15 degrees F and stay there. And keep a close eye on moisture levels during your first summer! With so many shrubs, this will be hard.

Fungal infections can be a problem. They will show up as either root rot when the plant is standing in water for long periods of time or as leaf spots. So try to water early in the morning, water when only necessary and -if possible- water the soil and not the leaves. On this first year, make sure that water reaches the root ball as the shrubs currently have no roots extending past their pot and would not be able to reach water that falls nearby but away from the root ball. Pick up plant debris from under the bushes. Check the mulch in spring and fall (i.e., once or twice a year) and add any type of acidic mulch when necessary.

Do not do yard work that could damage their tiny fibrous roots in the top 4" of the soil. And keep dogs away. Faaaaar away. Observe the recommended separation in the plants' labels or space them out assuming a 10-year size of 4x4 feet per bush. You can plant them closer if making a row/hedge but that can sometimes help fungal diseases spread. Plants that can look nice near RR are other white-flowering azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, photinias, white flowering dogwood and white leaf-variegated shrubs. Also maintain good air flow between these others plants and the azaleas.

After the shrubs have completed flowering, consider if you need to do any pruning. Complete this task by July since flower buds for the next spring will begin to develop then and you do not want to prune these off. Pruning dead branches is on my To-Do-Today List for today. If you have enough space between bushes then that should be all you need to do.

In some cases, RR will re-bloom in the fall all on its own. It does that here but not reliably every year. Re-blooming is mostly a function of temperatures at the time the plant blooms. Because those fall blooms come at the expense of the spring blooms, I take no action to promote this but, do not be surprised if it happens.

Have a successful year with those 21 shrubs but do keep an eye on them a lot,
Luis

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clipped on: 05.30.2013 at 08:41 pm    last updated on: 05.30.2013 at 08:41 pm