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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Growing Azaleas in Chicago and an Iris


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Here is some proof that you can
grow Azaleas in Chicago.

In 2001 I planted these from a pot
of Evergreen Azaleas and put
them in my back yard into
relatively acidic soil.

I added some plant food, and there
was some significant growth
helped by the fact that a neighbor
cut down a tree that had been blocking
the sunlight blocking this plant.

This picture shows the Azalea plant the
following summer (2002) after it has had
a chance to recover from being transplanted.

This is the same plant last spring or summer. As you can see there has been significant spread and growth in foliage and flowering, including and underground shoot to the left.

That small cluster of flowers on the left is from and independent root cluster that is an indication of the plant spreading out.

Still, not a lot of height on the plant, though you can see one branch climbing the fence in the back.

All in all, not bad for a foodstore flowerpot special that normally would be tossed after it died. It has now survived at least 3 severe Chicago winters and deep snow with no particular extra coverage.

This is from May, 2005 and the plant is now large enough to be properly considered a "bush". While it is not very high in stature, and this variety of Canadian Evergreen Azalea may never reach the heights of the Mobile Azaleas of the Azalea Trail, it is now a much more beautiful and stronger plant and its blooms seem to be stronger as well.

The climbing section in the back continues to cling and the central and right sections are getting some lift too. It will be interesting to see how much growth it gets this summer.

As I have not been able to Garden this year I am only reaping the benefits of past efforts, but this was a rather pleasant one.

I hope this dispels any doubt that Azaleas can be grown in Chicago, even from a pot designed as an indoor gift.

The key is that it be a hardy variety such as the Canadian Evergreen Azalea and that the plant be well watered while in the house and transplanted while the leaves are green. If the leaves and branches turn brown from under-watering the plant will almost certainly fail.

Transplanting is similar to any plant. You want to make sure that the hole is deep enough so that the root ball, as it were has room to go in to just below the dirt line in the original pot. It is a good idea to put a little plant food at the bottom of the hole and add water before adding the plant, but not so much that it might damage or "burn" the tender roots. Azaleas like acidic soil and some shade, but need sunlight too, under oak trees is an ideal location for them and this plant happens to be located under several oaks, yet has enough sun to grow well. The location next to the fence which is on the North side of the plant, shields it from some wind and eases the harshness of winter, but again, no other real precautions were taken except the first year when I did not remove the oak leaves that fell on it that fall.

I found this more of a burden than a help and am not sure that it made any difference other than making the plant harder to clean out in the spring.

After adding the soil to firm up the transplanted plant, be sure to water it regularly for a few weeks without drowning it. This will soften the soil and allow the roots to expand. Don't expect a second blooming that first year but you may get two bloomings in subsequent years.

Thanks to Google for making uploads of personal photos easier. This is not my normal fare but it is fun to talk about a different subject today.

Finally, here is a nice Iris from last year.

My Iris' had a tough winter. I only have 4 of them, transplants from my grandmother's yard given to me last year and they had a tough winter.

I like this photo though so I thought I'd throw it in because I am not sure this one survived the winter (:-(

That's it for this file,

Gardener Pete
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