Azaleas are a plant you will want to have many of in your garden. They have lush green foliage and wide-ranging colored flowers. And the cherry on the top is that they can live for a very long time when given the attention they require.
How long do azaleas live for? Azaleas can live for many years, anywhere between decades and centuries! This depends on a few factors. Some are controllable and others aren’t.
Those factors will be discussed later on in this blog.
How Old Is The Oldest Azalea?
Azaleas are not the hardest plants to grow. They require a reasonable amount of care. But, if you have settled into a routine it is easier to continue on doing it.
In Japan, azaleas are said to easily surpass the century milestone when they are provided with optimal conditions! This is a long time for a plant to live, the azaleas actually look like small trees at this age.
The oldest azalea bush is said to be in a province in China with an estimated age of 262 years old. This azalea has an astounding trunk that is 28 inches in diameter!
Getting your azalea to this age may be impossible. But, excellent care extends its longevity.
Check Out Do Azalea Stay Green In Winter?
Factors Influencing Azaleas Lifespan
Several factors will decide the age to which azaleas will live. Most are related to the environment and the care provided to the plants. Another leading factor is the compatibility of the azalea with the climate it is grown in.
Choose your azalea plant carefully as the specific variety you choose can and may influence its life span! You may be wondering what species has to do with how long azaleas live. They actually play a large role.
Let’s explain this with a real case. Suppose you have planted an azalea that is not native to your area, even your country. Well, then this azalea would not live to the age, it should if it was in its natural habitat.
This is because climate conditions are most suitable in the country where azalea grows as a local plant. That is their native conditions and these will be the conditions that will be stipulated for their growth in other countries.
For locations in North America, particularly the USA, deciduous azaleas are the variant to grow. This is because they are native and more adapted for these regions and the climate they have.
Do you make a conscious plan when planting your azaleas and hoping for them to live long? If not, you should! How you plant your azalea can decide how long the azalea will live.
For azaleas to establish themselves properly, they need to be out of the soil for the shortest amount of time. Also, they must be transplanted or planted with as much of their original roots as possible.
Azaleas need the best start they can get or they may not live long or grow to their ideal size.
- Immediate watering is essential to keep the soil moist and the roots from drying out. Roots are shallow and this top section of the soil dries out faster than the bottom. Newly planted azaleas require more constant watering to compensate for this.
- Soil should be relatively fertile and retain an acidic pH no matter what is added to it.
- The hole in which the azalea is planted should be sufficiently deep. It should be such that the azalea root ball sits 5 inches above the soil surrounding it.
- Prune your azalea regularly to get it to shoot when you want it to. This will strengthen it and may promote flowering as well.
A root ball is the mass of roots and soil dug up with the azalea plant. The more roots, the faster the plant will grow and establish itself.
Check Out Do Azalea Bushes Bloom in The Fall?
The environmental aspect does play a major role in deciding how long your azaleas will live. Conditions have to be optimal (close-to-native) for the azalea to have a long life! Here are some aspects of the environment which contribute towards azalea plant life expectancy.
Azaleas are one of a few plants that require acidic soil and strictly this. Neutral soil will not act as a substitute. Acidic soil in the range of pH 4.5 to 5.5 is best for growing azaleas.
Failure to test your soil’s pH can lead to a rapid decline and then the death of your plants. This would be highly disappointing seeing as azaleas can live for decades at the least!
Apart from an acidic nature, the soil must also be moist, but just enough to prevent drying out.
The azalea plant is quite a heavy feeder and some form of compost or fertilizer will be necessary. Feeding your azalea correctly with the right feed will contribute towards extending their life span.
Use an acidic-based soil fertilizer to ensure no alteration to soil pH. Also, if using natural compost, make sure it is acidic or well-rotted to become acidic. Pine needles and straw make acceptable compost for azaleas.
Azaleas prefer warmer temperatures ranging from 30℉ to 85℉. However, some azaleas are quite a cold hardy and they are capable of making it in USDA zones 4 to 9.
But, don’t take this for granted! Every winter isn’t the same and you will have to protect your azaleas from extremely cold weather. Snow, frost, and wind are elements that when given the chance will greatly decrease how long azaleas live.
Protecting your azaleas before winter hits will go a long way in making sure they survive and live longer. Failure to do so could leave the plant looking frail and unable to grow at the same rate that it should.
If your azaleas are young and in pots, even better. You can bring them indoors or on the patio for better protection. If left in the ground, you can construct a reinforced fence around them using burlap and a few sticks.
Azaleas are often plagued by quite a few pests. If the infestation is severe enough, years or even decades can be taken off your azalea’s lifespan.
Azalea caterpillars, Aphids, Leaf-hoppers, and Ants are just a few insects that are common azalea pests. You must carry out preventive measures to avoid them. But by chance, if your azaleas do get infected, you must try your best to manage their population.
If you don’t, your azaleas may very well succumb due to the damage inflicted by the pests. Some measures you can take are to avoid creating conditions that favor their growth. Also, use items that naturally deter these insects.
Some may hate the smell of herbs. Or you can use neem oil to restrict access to the stems.
NOTE: Azalea plants could be dangerous for honey bees. Azalea Pollen is poisonous and can become highly concentrated in honey, which is dangerous for humans. If you have honey bees avoid planting azaleas or plant them very very far away!
Azalea plants are especially prone to shorter lives due to incorrect watering habits. They may receive an excess of water or too little.
But, the result is the same, years of lifespan reduced. The importance of watering azaleas properly cannot be stressed enough.
To make matters worse, azaleas have very shallow root systems. Hence, it is very easy to misjudge during watering. Meaning that watering your azaleas requires constant and thorough testing of the soil prior to watering.
Dip your finger into the soil to feel how moist the soil is. The soil should be dry. But, not completely dry before you water it again. The soil at the top half of the plant just needs to be moist.
Although this may imply less watering, the soil can dry out fast and this can lead to a short-lived azalea bush!
While the environment does a lot to sustain your azalea plants, the rest is left to you! There are certain aspects of maintaining your plant that is essential for the longevity of your azaleas.
Some of these activities are:
- Fertilizing and Mulching
Fertilizing and Mulching
Fertilizing helps to replenish the soil with nutrients it has lost. So, this is advisable because azaleas are heavy feeders. But, chances are nutrients may not leach back into the soil fast enough to supply their demand, fertilizer helps with this.
Mulch helps with providing nutrients. Also, it helps in keeping the soil moist in hot seasons where soil can easily dry out. It does this by trapping a layer of water in the mulch. The organic material used for mulch is excellent and absorbs water.
Amending soil pH can take longer to do. So long that it may be too late by the time you actually fix the soil. The azaleas could die in the process or be severely stunted.
Fix soil pH before planting azalea but after adding a suitable compost/fertilizer.
All plants have to be pruned. It keeps them tame and helps to stimulate growth and in the case of lavender, it induces better flowering.
Azaleas need pruning as they can begin to look unruly or tend to start leaning in one direction.
Pruning may very well save the plant by preventing the stem from splitting down the center. It can also be a way to make sure azaleas don’t block important areas of the garden.
Pruning may also play a role in strengthening the azaleas for years to come. It can promote thicker stem growth and this can be helpful in surviving cold winter weather if you are in a colder climate.
Azaleas are not your regular plants that live for a year or two. They can very well live for decades in the right conditions. The possibility of them living for centuries is also not unheard of!
But, getting your azalea past the decade milestone will require love, care, and dedication. They can’t do it alone and you must be quick to identify and correct some issues.
Factors that influence how long do azaleas live are as follows:
- Azalea variety
- Planting technique
- Environment (soil, temperature, and pests)
- Care (fertilizing, mulching, and pruning)
Sometimes perfect conditions and bad care decrease how long azaleas live. But good care and poor conditions will yield the same result.
Optimal conditions and perfect care can promise a long life for an azalea plant. Sit back, care for it and enjoy the flower blooms!
Waiting for your azaleas to bloom but wondering when and how often they will bloom? Find out; do Azaleas bloom in the fall?
Unfortunately, yes azaleas can die of old age. Regardless of how long they live and how well you look after them, they may still die. Perhaps they have lived out their lives and reached their end way before they should. It is up to each individual azalea plant when this time is.
Not all azaleas will come back year after year. It depends on how well you care for your azalea plants. You must protect them from the cold in winter as well as prune them to ensure growth when spring arrives. The Encore series of azaleas are popular for coming back year after year.