The Right Place
Evergreen azaleas thrive in sites that are sunny in the early morning but offer protection from the sun as the day progresses. A spot in the dappled shade of high tree branches is ideal. Avoid planting azaleas near shallow rooted trees such as elm, oak or maple that compete vigorously with shallow fibrous azalea roots for available soil moisture.
Azaleas want moist, well-drained woodsy soil that is on the acid side. To improve soil that does not meet these criteria, add lots of organic matter such as chopped leaves, compost or Canadian sphagnum peat moss to the soil. For more details about making your soil more acidic see the file for Dealing with Alkaline Soils
Planting Nursery Stock
Plant evergreen azaleas that are in containers anytime during the growing season, but spring or fall is best. Plant those whose roots are in a ball of soil wrapped in burlap in the early spring, or, better yet, in the fall. Remove the shrub from its container or wrappings, removing as much burlap as possible while retaining the soil around the roots. Pull apart or cut any roots that are densely matted from being restricted in a container, spreading them gently.
To plant, dig a saucer-shaped planting hole just as deep as the shrub rootball is high and slightly wider than its width. Place the shrub in the empty hole, making certain that the top of the rootball is slightly above ground level. Fill the hole with just plain soil to the level of the surrounding ground and water thoroughly to provide good soil-to-root contact. If you have very clayey soil, mix into the soil in the entire planting area as much organic matter as you can to help it drain. Plant the azalea higher out of the ground in the South. Mulch the shrub with a 2 or 3 inch layer of some organic material such as chopped leaves or shredded bark to discourage weeds, help maintain soil moisture and condition the soil as it decomposes. Water azaleas well during the first year while they are getting established.
Amendments In Planting or Transplanting
There are a number of products at the garden center that will help your newly planted or transplanted plants deal better with the stress inherent in the planting process. All healthy plants have beneficial fungi, called mycorrhizal fungi, living on their roots. You can buy these valuable additions to your plant’s ecosystem. See the file describing Using Micorrhizae When Planting.
In addition, there are a number of products such as seaweed, compost tea, and beneficial soil microbes that when added to the planting process will help your newly established plants get going faster. See the file New Technology In Plant Growth Activators
For more information see the file on Planting Shrubs