Plant Profile: Kurume Azaleas

Used to the point of cliche in foundation plantings,  Kurume Azaleas are low maintenance evergreen shrubs that really shine in spring, when they turn the color of cotton candy and light up forgotten corners of the garden.  I used to think that they were boring, but that was when my plants didn't have any shade, dried out too much and the soil was too alkaline for its preferences.  Once I applied some coffee grounds at the bases and planted a bottlebrush to help shade them from the summer sun, they've slowly become more established and have thanked me with lusher growth and more blooms!  I also tip prune after blooming and in summer to promote denser growth, and therefore denser blooms!


Obviously these are great as foundation plantings, but I would recommend using them as massed groundcovers or even as freestanding specimens.  I have seen some gorgeous bonsai'd specimens, and the compact growth habit makes for an easy bonsai.  I will be pruning them in the Mai Dat style which is common in traditional Thai Gardens, and pruning them into separate tiered canopies that will seem to float in space.  In the photos you'll find clusters of flowers high above the bush, and those will be pruned into compact horizontal mounds.  This look is also great for gardens in the Chinese style, where this pruning method was made popular, and also in a Japanese garden where it would look lovely beside raked gravel and a Japanese maple. 


Kurume Azaleas prefer a rich and acidic soil with added organic content, however they are adaptable and can handle the sandy soils of Florida.  Although they don't like wet feet, they usually survive to tell the tale... if they could talk that is.  Partial shade is pest for these bushes.  In too much sun they tend to get scorched and in full shade they are lanky and bloom less, but its not a freaking exact science and they can handle what you throw at it as long as there's enough time for it to acclimate to its situation.

You don't need exotic plants to create an exotic look!  Just find hardy species and hybrids that support your theme, and let the design do the talking.


  1. Interesting post. Are those Coral Bells? My favorite Kurume is Pink Pearl. None of my azaleas are foundation plants.

  2. Your azaleas do have very dense bloom, looks like your summer pruning did very good to them. Your corner looks very beautiful with all these azaleas blossoms! Very interesting information about Chinese style prunning. I am planning a travel back to China. Will make arrangement to visit some gardens for sure!

  3. Your azaleas are very pretty. I didn't realize there were different types of azaleas. Where have I been? My azaleas grow huge but I love them.

  4. I like the idea of an azalea for a small space. I actually saw these at HD this weekend labeled as "Fasion Azaleas." Very pretty flowers!

  5. Very beautiful azaleas.
    Wished I have them too.

    Happy Easter!

  6. Love the color of your azaleas.


  7. Tell more about this Mai Dat technique. Yes, I have Google, but I am interested in how the expert does it. I'm warming to azaleas as well, and a way to make them more exotic is very interesting to me.

    BTW - Thank you for the HUGE compliment. Much appreciated!!!

  8. Wicked gardener - I'm no expert! I've just read all about it back in my asian humanities class in college and in my favorite books on balinese and thai gardening. Its pretty much like topiary, but consists of growing individual trunks with manicured and pruned "canopy shapes" if you will. Kind of like sculpting an idealized shape of a tree in a manicured manner, preferably in a shape similar to the natural form... like a big bonsai!

  9. You're going to have to throw a book title my way. The only sites online I found in English were for LOL!

  10. "Thai Garden Style", "Balinese gardens" and anything by Made Wijaya. I'm addicted to reading books!

  11. Hi Steve, Welcome to my blog. I love your blog. What first attracted me to it was the great design. I am a graphic designer and am learning the ropes on blog design. As you can see by my blog I still have not got all the technicalities worked out. How do you put key lines around your photos and the horizontal rules down the side? You also seem to have great control over formating which I cannot seem to figure out. Is there a "How to" website you could direct me to?
    Content wise your blog is enlightening me on gardening in Florida. I wish our season was as long as yours. It is very informative and we also plant some of the same things. I will post a picture when my Azaleas bloom. Thanks again for following... it is so exciting for a new blogger. I will try to keep it interesting.

  12. Hey Laurie!
    I don't know of a site that tells you how to do it, but its pretty easy if you're familiar with photoshop.

    Believe it or not I do the borders in photoshop when I crop/prepare the photos for the site, since I need to resize the photos anyways. I first started recording an action using the actions dialogue box, then made a new layer via copy, made a black border using layer styles, and I save for web. Its actually a pretty streamlined process when you get the hang of it!

    The lines down the side are actually just part of the background image, created in illustrator. You can alter the css tags to make the envelope have a border and an opaque fill, but I don't remember off hand how to do it. I should be doing that soon though.

    If you notice that your blog is running slowly (like it is on my computer), several other bloggers I know (I'm looking at you Ami :)have been using the same graphics heavy template, and it really makes the site drag. When I optimized my background I used the save for web dialogue to save it as a gif and limited the colors used to make it run faster.

    Thank you so much for your sweet compliments! I'm actually a design school dropout (for lack of funds) so I'm pretty much teaching myself everything i can.


Please feel free to share your questions, ideas and suggestions!