Picking the “right” partner for your landscaped garden area can be a challenging task. There are sooo many factors to consider when choosing a lifelong companion for your space…to start are the obvious: looks. While none of us want to admit how vain we actually are, how a plant looks tends to be most peoples number one priority.
THE PROBLEM? Some of the most attractive plants come with some serious “baggage”. These plants are needy and require a lot of work. If you want those looks, you have to be willing to pay the price. In writing this post, I am really thinking about Azaleas, but some other beautiful but needy Plants with Baggage are Hydrangeas and Gardenias. So what is the cost?
- Give them a nice home. In order to jump into a relationship with a Plant with Baggage you had better be prepared to provide them with a nice home. You may have a certain location you have envisioned for this thing to grow, but it is not about what “you” want, it’s about what “they” want. If you start them out in full sun or too dense of shade, the relationship will probably be over before it really has a chance to blossom. These sweethearts prefer dappled shade or filtered shade. A little bit of sun but not too much. Oh, and did I forget to mention drainage? They need that too…see what I mean?
- Provide for them. If you don’t have the money to provide for them, you might want to consider other options. Some of the Baggage that comes along with these plants is the need for a more acidic soil with a pH around 4.5-6. While some amendments can be used to adjust the pH in the soil, ideally the best thing to do is remove the soil in the planting area and start things off right with a organic acidic or azalea soil. I recommend at least to the depth of the plant containers (but preferably 18″ depth) and double the width. With other plant options you don’t have to spend this extra money on the bed preparation, so make sure you have a padded bank account before saying “I do” to one of these plants.
- Continue to date them, and feed them well. All relationships take on-going work and maintenance. Plants with Baggage are no different, they just take MORE maintenance. Think you can get away with feeding them fast food? Fast foods such as general purpose fertilizers are not going to work. Fertilize with an Azalea specific product. Often in our North Texas alkaline soils these plants are iron deficient and require iron and sulfur additives. You’ll also want to top dress the plants each year with the acidic or azalea soil you used for the planting bed. Only the finest for these beauties!
Keep in mind, that sometimes it is love at first sight, and you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Yes, you may look at this list and think it is too much work for you, but fate is fate, and if you love that Azalea/Hydrangea/Gardenia then you should go for it! Let your walls down, and take a leap of faith. You’ll never know, if you never try!!