Azaleas are great plants that create appeal with their above-ground green foliage and pastel-colored flowers. But, not many growers are knowledgeable about what happens below ground! Do Azaleas Have Deep Roots?
No, The roots of azaleas are actually short and not deep at all!
You could come to face quite a few problems due to the nature of azalea roots. What are the problems associated with short roots and what influences the root depth of azaleas?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about azalea roots.
Purpose of Roots
A plant’s roots are its anchor, support system, and power source. When roots are not healthy or not performing up to requirements, the plant will be in dire problems. Sometimes correcting these problems is not so simple.
You will have to look and observe the roots to see where the real problem is. Not every plant’s roots are the same.
They all have their own distinguishing features that make them unique and most efficient for that particular plant.
What all will root be responsible for? Here are a few things that they are responsible for.
- Anchoring the plant into the soil and holding it upright so it can receive optimal sun rays
- Absorbing and transporting water up from the soil and to all other plant parts
- Storing food materials and converting them to a usable form
All azalea plants do not have deep roots, not even averagely deep roots!
Their roots are known to spread in width instead of in-depth, meaning they take more horizontal space. This means that you have to carefully calculate how close or far to plant its neighbor.
Want to know what plants make very good neighbors to azaleas. Here are the best Azalea companion plants?
Their root system also differs from the root system of most plants in terms of appearance. They distinguish fine fibrous roots and lack the taproot.
This is a disadvantage for the plant. Although azalea roots can grow deeper, they just can’t reach that depth that provides water.
There is another reason why azalea roots are so shallow. They spread out in the hopes of catching as many minerals and nutrients before they leach into the soil and become unobtainable.
You could almost call this a survival technique since they cannot source nutrients that are deep in the soil.
Problems Associated With Shallow Roots
Having shallow roots may have the perk of not having to dig too deep when you want to move azaleas.
However, there are other downsides to consider about azalea’s roots. These are a few problems you are likely to encounter when growing azaleas, due to their short roots!
Inaccessible to Water
Most plants have no issues reaching down in the soil to areas that have more moisture than others. But, with azaleas, this is not a feasible option. This is why moist soil is a constant requirement of azalea plants.
This need is more so in summer than in any other season. During summer, the soil will start to dry, from top to bottom. Failure to keep the soil moist will result in dying roots. Also, that’s not all moist soil helps with.
When growing, azalea roots will extend width-wise. If the soil is dry, those roots won’t be going anywhere!
Growth will be instantly hindered. That’s not to say that they can’t extend downwards, they can. It’s just not to a depth that will yield any desirable results.
Prone to Root Rot
For soils that are known to accumulate water, azaleas grown in these soils are at higher risk of root rot. The roots are shallow and densely concentrated in the upper portion of the soil. Additionally, soils that drain poorly are not a suitable match for azaleas.
With wet soil and poor soil drainage come other problems. The most common being fungal infestations. These microorganisms thrive in wet and warm conditions, especially in the soil where their spores already exist.
To prevent fungal disease and the diminishing of azalea plant roots, you have to maintain soil moisture.
There should not be excessive moisture either. This starts with amending soil and adopting a carefully selected watering schedule that suits the azaleas.
Lack of Stability
While other plants have a deep root system to anchor them into the ground, azaleas don’t have this luxury.
Incorrect planting by digging a shallow hole or not covering the roots with enough soil could easily result in tragedy.
Besides, wouldn’t it be embarrassing if guests came over only to see your azaleas toppled over! The roots have to be placed in an adequately deep hole even if they are shallow roots.
Usually, 4 feet by 4 feet hole should suffice. But more space may be required depending on the dimensions of your azalea plant. Generally, holes should be more wide than deep but still deep enough.
Factors That Influence Azalea Root Length
We now know that azalea plants do have shallow roots.
However, a few factors can be responsible for influencing azalea root growth differences. These few aspects can very well make roots grow differently, maybe even out of their usual characteristics.
The variety of azalea does also decides how long the roots will be. Some variants are taller than others and roots are also a bit longer in order to stabilize the tall plants.
But that doesn’t mean that any azalea variant is severely disadvantaged because of its short roots. If you take care of them properly they will grow to their full potential.
Water is perhaps the most important resource a plant needs if it is to grow to be healthy and flower well. If an azalea plant is growing well and has all the water it requires, there is no incentive to grow deeper!
But, if the plants are being stuck for water, their survival will depend on their roots growing deeper.
Soil Composition and Mulch
The soil’s composition and availability of moisture will also influence root growth. Poor Soil will lead to diminished root growth and roots that aren’t healthy.
Moist soil can promote the stretching of roots but not extend downwards. If nutrients are present deep down, the roots may have to grow longer.
But if the area stretches wide, this suits the roots just fine. This is because the roots reach all areas horizontally!
Adding mulch will mean the plant will not need to grow its roots deeper! So it won’t if you give it mulch which provides moisture and nutrients.
Azalea Transplanting Issues Due To Roots
Azaleas require a different approach to transplanting than other deep-rooted plants.
Due to their shallow roots, they are relatively more fragile and prone to death after transplantation. This is because roots are fine and can take longer to become ‘established’.
But, this isn’t the only reason why azaleas are considered to have a disadvantage over other plants when they are moved. Because the roots stay close to the ground, it is easy for them to dry out.
If all this isn’t enough, digging up the azalea itself can be troublesome! Although the roots don’t get very deep, they do indeed get wide. Containing them can be difficult and you will end up having to cut off a bit.
When transplanting small azaleas, make sure the root ball is twice the size of the azalea plant. Big azalea bushes just need a root ball the same size as the plant.
This is because smaller plants are weaker and need more roots to become settled and grow in their new site. So, how do you remove the plant and still get such a large amount of roots?
Dig a circle 12 inches from the outmost branches of the azalea. Then dig deeper an inch at a time, slightly moving inwards at every stage.
The resultant azalea plant with the root ball should be cone-shaped. Use burlap to cover the roots to avoid drying out and damage.
This is the easiest way to transport and transplant the azalea plant with maximum root bulk and minimal casualties.
How To Prepare Azalea Plants and Roots For Transplantation
Although the above method of collecting an azalea and roots is efficient, it does have a drawback. It may not be very effective if your azalea plant is a huge bush! Hence, another plan of action is necessary for such plants.
In this case, you can prepare the azalea plant well in advance! How much in advance? About 1 or 2 years prior to transplantation should do it. This will greatly reduce stress (transplant shock) and increase its chances of survival.
- Take a spade and mark out a circle around the azalea, this is called the drip line.
- Again using the spade, cut down into the soil.
- Move the spade deeper until you reach the roots.
- Apply pressure to make sure you cut the roots cleanly and slightly angle the spade to form a circular shape.
- Continue doing this deeper until you feel you have cut 33% to 50% of the roots in a circular pattern.
- All roots that have been severed will naturally begin to start growing inwards towards the plant.
- To avoid the roots growing outwards, you can dig a circular outside the first soil circle to create a ring.
- Remove all the soil in this ring.
- Then, next year repeat the digging and root severing procedure.
- Again the roots will be cut and start to grow inwards.
This makes it much easier to remove the plant when all the roots are already growing in a ball shape.
Azalea’s roots are not very deep and sit quite shallow in the soil, unable to collect water. This is why one of their requirements is moist soil all the time.
Azalea roots are not very deep and appear wider than they are deep. This has some benefits and some disadvantages as well. If you adopt the right care plan, they will grow very well!
Transplanting azaleas are easier when you dig around the roots, causing the roots to grow inwards. For azalea bushes, you will have to prepare them at least 2 years in advance.
Read about how to prune azalea plants.
Azaleas have short roots that are not solid but rather fibrous in nature. They lack the typical taproot that is responsible for absorbing large amounts of water and nutrients.
As a result, each individual root is responsible for absorbing water and nutrients.
Azaleas don’t really have roots that are invasive, they can’t reach extensively deep.
However, they grow horizontally and can become a thick network of thin roots. This can be very difficult to dig up! One thing to watch out for is that azalea roots do not intertwine with a plant that has deeper roots.