It's the Plants, Darling

Another Thing I Hate About Azaleas

So with all due respect [wink] and please, no hate mail, but here’s my case against azaleas:  They’re overused, even in such inhospitable spots as
full sun; rarely pruned correctly, if at all; and they add almost nothing
to the garden after their 2 weeks of glory.  I shared this multi-count indictment with my Takoma Gardener readers recently and agreed with the suggestion by Washington Post writer Joel Lerner that azaleas be used as only accents.  Please.  Joel went on to urge gardeners to resist buying one each of every color and instead stick with just one color and if I ever find an example of that, I’m sure I’ll prefer it, too.

So here I Azaleacomplaint1am picking on azaleas again and it’s because, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have more evidence, the photo marked for the record as Garden Rant Exhibit A.  You see, after those overly fussed-over 2 weeks of blooming, THIS is what azaleas look like for the next 6 weeks – dead flowers
in that nifty shade of brown, clinging stubbornly to the damn shrub. 
And for the math impaired I’ll point out that 6 weeks is three times as long as the 2 weeks, which you’d think even nongardening Harry and Harriet Homeowner would realize is a bad deal.

So for these reasons and surely more, dissing azaleas has become common sport
among garden designers, even as their clients continue to ask for them.  So I say to frustrated designers everywhere:  Fight the good fight and I’ll back you up!  (I know that’s a relief to you all.)

Posted by on June 14, 2006 at 3:11 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.
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13 Responses to “Another Thing I Hate About Azaleas”

  1. Michele says:

    Well, I’m with you on azaleas, Susan. Vulgar plants, and as a Jersey girl, I say that with feeling.

    But how, then, can you justify any of those white spireas? Same deal–they bloom for three days and the brown flowers hang on, looking like dirty laundry, for months.

  2. Genie says:

    Susan,

    I had a serious chuckle when I saw your post. You’re absolutely right — the DC Metro area has absolutely got to be the epicenter of Azalea Nation. Back before I ever really noticed plants, I always loved that 15 minutes of fame, and my parents had plenty in front of my house, but it always struck me as bizarre that we had a plant there that was pretty for such a short amount of time.

    I’m loving Garden Rant — I’m so glad you guys teamed up!

    Genie
    http://www.theinadvertentgardener.com

  3. royann says:

    I just relocated to Virginia from San Diego, and have spent the last year get to know a whole new climate, and attempting to ID the plants in my garden.

    I was shocked to see the Azaleas blooming everywhere when we moved here in the spring. They are not so abundant in SoCal. At first I thought wow, the azaleas are beautiful, huge, how pretty. Then I got to see how ugly they are after they bloom. We have decided not to make any changes in the yard for the first year. Needless to say I will be removing them soon. I was afraid this was a sacrilege. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. kelly says:

    Right. On. The house we’re moving into this week has a few too many azaleas planted around the foundation. Those and some of the fuscia rhodies. Ugh. But the property is sweet and I’m chomping at the bit to get over there with my proper digging tools and get busy. I’ll plan to transplant the azaleas and rhodies to the woods.

  5. susan says:

    Hope you’re not planning to move or plant anything between now and September, unless you LIKE constant watering all summer. Otherwise, go for it!

  6. Nancy says:

    I must be in the southern epicenter of Azaleadom, the coastal plain of North Carolina. On my modest suburban lot of just less than 1/2 acre we had over (and I am not exagerrating) 200 azaleas, of every type and color, all blobbed together; and yes, I am now proud to say that not a single one is left, much to the horror of my neighbors, who gobbled up all the azaleas my husband & I put out at the curb. I am still remaking all of those beds into mixed borders, and much to the surprise of my neighbors, they like these new borders even better than Azaleaville. Love all of your blogs & love Garden Rant.

  7. kelly says:

    oh no, it’ll be the beginning of October before I even give it any serious thought. Or maybe even the following fall. I have vegetables to tend! and eat!

  8. Kim says:

    I’m loving Garden Rant and agree with you on the azaleas. Rhodies bother me slightly less, but only because their thicker evergreen leaves add something to the foliage mix and it’s easier to clip off their flowers… yes, I clip even before they actually burst into bloom because mine flowers, argh, hot pink!

    Michele, I hear you on the spireas. And the only ones that have interesting foliage colors bloom in such a godawful shade of Pepto Bismol pink!

  9. Reading Dirt says:

    In the Pacific Northwest, it’s rhododendrons, followed closely by azaleas (with a large helping of nandina, the darling of grocery store landscapers). Countless yards around here, where they have flowers at all, have a barkdusted patch with a clump of rhododendrons, azaleas, and perhaps one or two other shrubs.

    Now, I rather like rhododendrons in full bloom in their proper setting — best of all as the understory along the edge of a woodsy area. Crystal Springs rhododendron garden in Portland has an amazing spring display. But while you can get rhodies that bloom at different times to extend the display, once the flowers are gone and hanging like old sweat socks off of the branches, the rhodies become dark green backdrop waiting for something else to take center stage. When nothing else does because the homeowners plunked in rhodies and were done, the audience turns away in boredom.

  10. firefly says:

    “Joel went on to urge gardeners to resist buying one each of every color and instead stick with just one color … .”

    I estimate this is at least 5 years too late for the rhodies around my house. In front we have fuchsia (1), salmon pink (2), and white (2), with a liberal understory overplanting of hosta in just about every leaf form you never wanted to get stuck with.

    I have to admit that when the first rhodie bloomed in early April, I was so glad to see something other than brown grass that I actually decided I liked the thing and would keep it. But the others (especially the white ones) may be moved in favor of, well, something else, which I haven’t decided on yet because I’m still changing the back yard around to my liking.

  11. Oldroses says:

    I thought NJ where I live was the center of the azalea universe! They’re everywhere! In every color! When I moved into my current house, the entire backyard was outlined with azaleas in all the available colors. My first order of business was to yank then all out!

  12. Carol says:

    Here in the midwest, azaleas (and rhodos) are a “fool’s shrub”. They never last long because the soil is too alkaline or black vine weevils eat the roots. Those that do survive, just survive and they never get very big. However, many garden centers continue to put them out in their full bloom to entice unsuspecting homeowners to buy them, even though the darn things probably finish blooming before the homeowners even get them in the ground!

  13. John says:

    I have 20-30-50? azalea fiulm grown shrubs and I hate them except 2 weeks in the spring… GIVE AWAY FOR FREE! COME AND TAKE THEM ALL!

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