Over the past few years winters have become colder in many places, with ice storms and weird weather patterns.
Azaleas have been hit hard. Honor Heights Park here in Muskogee, once known for its springtime Azalea Festival has lost hundreds of azaleas.
Each year, more Encore Azaleas are replanted in place of the historic varieties (thank you Greenleaf Nursery!) but their roots are barely deep enough to protect them from these weeks and weeks of below freezing night time temperatures.
Encore Azaleas posted a freeze warning and offered these tips to protect your spring blooms -
1. Reduce Water Alter your watering schedule to help Encore Azaleas harden off. About a month before first frost, decrease the amount of water given to your plants. After a few hard freezes, increase the amount of water to add moisture to the plants and the surrounding ground. This process helps your plants harden off and go dormant as the initial decrease in water moderates the drop in temperature and then provides needed moisture when the ground is frozen.
2. Add Mulch Add mulch to protect the roots. Mulch can be applied anytime, although it’s good to add about 4 inches of mulch in fall to protect the roots from first frost. Mulch keeps Encore Azalea's shallow roots safe from the outside environment while providing some moisture as the watering schedule decreases and the temperatures drop.
3. Cover or Drape Drape material to protect plants from severe weather. When the temperature suddenly drops and maintains 25 degrees or below, provide additional protection by driving stakes into the ground around the plants and draping material over the stakes. Choose burlap or any cloth material so the azalea receives air flow. Be sure the cover does not have direct contact with the plants as this can injure the foliage. Cover is especially beneficial for new azaleas or azaleas that were recently transplanted and have not had enough time to establish a strong root system.
When your shrubs bloom in the spring, you'll pat yourself on the back for getting out there with old sheets and a few bags of mulch.