Coral Bells azalea is found in every southern garden center in spring. It blooms on almost every street in the south during the first or second week of April.
One might think Coral Bells azalea is too common, too familiar, but consider this: There are over 10,000 named azalea and rhododendron hybrids and yet Coral Bells and its cousin Snow have persisted in popularity for decades. There is a reason for this. This remarkable azalea is covered in clear pink blooms that are so complete in their coverage as to be virtually without peer.
Coral Bells is one of the first azaleas to bloom each spring, having fully opened in Georgia by the second week of April.
No wonder this cultivar figures prominently among the azaleas and dogwoods of Augusta National during Masters’ week.
Kurume azaleas are hardy zones USDA zones 6-9. They are easy to grow if you have acidic soil and afternoon shade. Kurume azaleas do marvelously under the filtered canopy of mature pine trees. They can flower profusely under the heavier shades of hardwoods if enough moisture and morning light is provided. Direct sun from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. is ruinous.
Gardeners run into problems when planting azaleas and rhododendrons too deeply.
Dig a shallow hole that is wide but not too deep. Feed the soil with compost and soil amendments. Anything rich and dark and crumbly. Plant the azalea so the root ball is an inch or two above the existing soil level and mound away from the stem. Water deeply and regularly the first season. A mulch (pine straw is perfect) will help matters along greatly.
Plant Coral Bells azaleas in groups of three or five if you have the room. Resist the urge to plant different colors on top of each other. It is true the reds and pinks and whites can complement each other. Too often, however, I see a red azalea and a white azalea planted so closely together that after a few years they look like one azalea with a split personality, half red and half white.