I love the Snow azalea. Covered with small, pure white blooms that explode out of the landscape, especially in shadier areas or late in the day, Snow is a beacon. Growing 3′-5′ tall and wide over the years, Snow has a loosely rounded shape that features smallish dark green leaves and hose-on-hose white blooms without peer for complete coverage of a garden shrub.
Like Coral Bells, the Snow azalea is one of the classics of the American spring garden.
Snow azalea prefers partial shade, but what does this frustratingly generic term ‘partial shade’ mean? Gardeners are often justifiably confused about partial sun and partial shade plant tags. In the case of azaleas and rhododendrons (and many other plants), the plants need enough sun to stimulate healthy flowering. The challenge is that too much sun will burn and damage leaves, weakening the plant.
As a good rule, one could reasonably interpret partial shade to mean site the plants where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. Filtered, indirect light throughout the day is also acceptable. Pines are very good in this regard, and planting azaleas under pine trees is a time-honored garden tradition that works.
Snow’s downfall comes when the flowers fade. Snow azalea’s blooms fade to a husky brown and stay that way, slowly drying on the shrub. Plants that drop their blooms cleanly are good citizens in the garden. While the seemingly peerless Snow azalea does hold a tight grip on faded flowers, it can be forgiven I hope.
One thing I would not recommend is attempting to shear the faded blooms off by pruning. You risk destroying the form of the shrub.