April 2, 2013
If there's a single shrub that could be called a staple in the southern landscape it is the azalea. The spectacular flowering has made azaleas one of the all-time most popular landscape shrubs. It's early spring in south Mississippi and the azaleas are putting on a show. One of the earliest blooming varieties is the southern Indica azalea. Whether used as specimen plants, hedges or backgrounds, Southern Indica azalea has to be my favorite azalea. The blooms are huge resembling rhododendrons, and are created in great quantities. The flowers are funnel-formed with narrow bases and bell-shaped edges. The flower colors are pinks, purples, and reds, and includes white. Many have speckles in the flower throats. Southern Indica azalea has the potential to be a big plant. Pruning can keep them smaller with denser growth. Always prune after flowering but before July 4th. The flower buds for next year are formed early in the summer. Azalea lace bug is a common insect pest and causes leaf speckling. These are sucking insects that live on the underside of the leaf and leave tell-tale spots of black frass. Azaleas have a shallow and fragile root system that can be damaged from excessive raking. Using organic mulch like these oak leaves is the best method to keep landscape weeds under control. You can expect Southern Indica azaleas to bloom in early March down on the coast, to early April in north Mississippi. I'm horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.