Nothing says ‘cottage garden’ like azalea and camellia bushes, either trailing up the side of a quaint home or dotting the landscape with vibrant pops of color. With over 10,000 different species between them, they give us an endless number of combinations with which to create beautiful outdoor spaces.
Cultivated in Southeast Asia for thousands of years, azaleas and camellias were first introduced into European gardening practices in the mid-1700s. Then, making their way west in the early 1800s.
If allowed to, these elegant bloomers can grow upwards of 15 feet tall and flower in colors ranging from soft, pastel pinks and peaches to bright reds, oranges, and Fuschia. Keeping them healthy and producing this spectacular show requires proper care. This includes choosing the best fertilizer for azaleas and camellias available. But, what kind of fertilizer do they like?
Choosing The Best Fertilizers for Azaleas and Camellias
Maintaining the health of these garden icons isn’t complicated and they will certainly benefit from ample feeding. But, they don’t require much. Making them some of the most cost-effective shrubs to grow.
Balanced feeds, like a 10-10-10 or a 15-15-15, that are specially formulated for acid-loving plants like these, work best. It’s also a good idea to test the soil’s pH level prior to planting. This way you’ll know what they’re getting from the soil. These bloomers are sensitive to over-fertilizing, being able to strike a balance between incorporating a good feed without causing root or leaf burn is vital for the health and vitality of your shrubs.
Granular Vs Liquid Fertilizer
Choosing an application method is simply a matter of what works best for you, in terms of ease of use. Liquid nutrients are quickly carried to the roots, allowing for immediate uptake. They can keep crucial pH levels balanced, too. But, caution is recommended, as over-feeding could lead to root burn.
Concentrated granules are slow-releasing and provide a consistent flow of nutrients for several months at a time, saving you time and effort.
Liquid Concentrate or Spray
A water-diluted mixture of concentrated nutrients works by being applied directly to the roots, or as a foliar spray. A little liquid concentrate can go a long way and water-soluble granules can sit on your potting shelf, with no mess, until you’re ready to use them.
Fertilizer Granules or Powder
Granules are a time-saving, slow-release option. Heavily concentrated, they can provide consistent nourishment for up to nine months. Releasing nutrients with every watering.
Economical powdered fertilizers can be worked into the soil as a slow-release method or diluted in water as a “tea” for faster absorption.
Spikes are one of the easiest application types to use. They’re pre-measured, compact and slow-releasing with little risk of root burn. Watering them in is not necessary either, as nutrients formulated for acid-loving plants are released from the spike by micro-organisms that naturally live in the soil.
Azalea and Camellia Soil pH
These bountiful bloomers absorb nutrients most effectively when they’re planted in soil that has a pH of between 5.0 and 6.5 so it’s a good idea to measure the pH levels in your soil with a soil test kit before planting.
Most fertile garden soils range from 6.0 – 7.0. If your pH is too high, consistently adding compost to the soil will not only increase its fertility but lower its pH to healthy levels.
Many of the fertilizer options we’ll discuss below are designed to maintain a healthy pH for acid-loving plants with the addition of iron and other elements. While keeping these acid lovers happy and thriving with proper nutrients.
Azaleas and Camellias Fertilizer N-P-K
Blooming acid-loving shrubs such as Azaleas flourish with an equal combination of vital macronutrients. Nitrogen (N) – for strong roots and robust growth, and phosphorus (P) – supports photosynthesis and bud production. Potassium (K) – for healthy foliage and resistance to disease – is also important but ratios can be lower.
The best fertilizer for azaleas and camellias will contain a slightly higher ratio of nitrogen to help maintain soil acidity and phosphorus to encourage blooming. A 9-8-7 N-P-K or a 30-30-10 is ideal.
Fertilizer labels display a three-numbered ratio, known as an N-P-K. Indicating its proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Example: 10-10-10 means 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus and 10% potassium.
Best Fertilizer for Azaleas and Camellias Reviews
Product testing and review research takes time, effort, and money but lucky for me, I am a huge lover of flower growing and have been for a good few years now.
That’s why I have taken the time to undertake so pretty intense, robust, and extensive testing of my own. For balance, I’ve also included consumer experiences from across the gardening spectrum.
These exquisite bloomers really do deserve the investment of time since they give so much in return so, here below are my picks for the top 6 best fertilizers for Azaleas and Camellias so that you can enjoy them to their full potential in your garden too.
1. Jobe’s Fertilizer Spikes Plant Food For Azalea & Camellias 9-8-7
Jobe’s spikes are one of the easiest ways to fertilize any size azalea or camellia plant. Specific to acid lovers and with an N-P-K of 9-8-7, this is a slow-release feed that will continue to provide an even balance of nutrients for up to 8 weeks without the risk of root burn or over-fertilizing.
Expect healthy plants, lush foliage, more buds, and plentiful blooms that won’t drop at the first signs of rain or moderate wind. Just remember to remove all spent blooms to encourage new ones to form as the season progresses. Click for Jobe’s Fertilizer Spikes for Azalea & Camellias here.
How To Use: Insert spikes around shrubs and the slow-release formula feeds them for up to 8 weeks. I find them easier to administer if I water the soil around my plants prior to pushing them in, though there is a tendency for them to break if pushed into dry, solid dirt.
Customer Reviews: Across different forums, gardeners are highly recommending Jobe’s spikes. Especially for use in regions with dense clay or infertile soil. Ready to replace them, their acid-loving shrubs did a complete turn-around. With new healthy growth, almost immediately. 4.7 out of 5 stars.
- Lasts upto 8 weeks
- Convenient fertilizer option that is mess free and odorless.
- May break off in dry soil
2. Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Azalea, Rhododendron Plant Food 30-30-10
I’ve used this feed from Miracle-Gro before on my blueberries and other fruits, but never with ornamentals. Rich in iron and other trace elements, testing showed it really helped to lower my soil pH. Resulting in my azalea and camellia blooms doubling in number!
I simply applied it with a hose attachment and stored the rest in its resealable container. See prices for Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Plant Food for Azalea & Rhododendron from Amazon.com
How To Use: Mix 1 tablespoon for every gallon of water. Feed plants for 7-14 days during the recommended time frame.
Customer Reviews: Gardeners are raving about the remarkable difference between those plants they’ve used this on vs those they didn’t. Particularly gardeners in harsh climates. New, young plantings doubled in size, in the first season. 4.7 out of 5 stars.
- Contains iron and magnesium to lower pH
- Higher in nitrogen for strong overall plant health
- May further increase acidity in already acid soil
3. Espoma Organic Holly Tone Fertilizer Evergreen & Azalea Food 4-3-4
Natural and organic, Espoma’s Holly-Tone for acid-lovers is a slow-release fertilizer that contains their patented Bio-tone formula. This is where a spring application of the formula will release microbes into the soil so that your azaleas and camellias can continue to receive nutrients throughout the season. The end result is an abundance of blooms in vibrant colors and lush green foliage.
This is a versatile fertilizing option that can either be administered worked into the top 4″ of soil for slow-release benefits or if your plants are looking a little tired, droopy or off-color, can be administered as a water-soluble formula by diluting in water to provide a quick-release of nutrients that will get to work straight away.
The versatility of this fertilizer doesn’t end there as this can also be used for other acid-loving plants such as hydrangea, evergreens, and dogwood too. Click here for Espoma Organic Holly-Tone Fertilizer Evergreens & Azalea Plant Food.
Summary: How To Use: Work 1 cup per foot of branch spread into the soil or dilute it and pour it onto the soil within the dripline.
Customer Reviews: When landscaping with low-maintenance shrubs like azaleas and camellias, consumers are recommending this equally easy fertilizer option. And when used as directed, you won’t burn your plants, protecting your investment. Awarding this 4.8 out of 5 stars and my pick for BEST BUY.
- More blooms with vibrant color
- Contains exclusive Biotone microbes to nourish the soil
- May exhibit a slight, natural odor
4. Dr. Earth Organic Acid Fertilizer 4-5-4
Dr Earth Organic Acid Fertilizer is my second-place choice. This is an organic and 100% natural fertilizer and is particularly beneficial for young plants and soil at the time of first planting.
It contains organic matter plus microbes, probiotics, and ecto and endo mycorrhizae that will help to enrich the soil and increase acid levels. Making this the perfect option if pH levels in your soil are too high and need lowering.
As with my first choice, Dr. Earth Organic for Acid Lovers is suitable for many varieties of Ericaceous plants (lime hating) and can be used for hydrangea, dogwood, azalea, and camellia to name but a few.
Completely safe to let my dogs and kids play around, I tested this both as a tea and as a dry, slow-release on two different azaleas. I must say, my dogs were really attracted to the subtle, organic smell of the tea. But, that aside, I did get amazing foliage and bud growth in both of my trials. View prices for Dr. Earth Organic Acid Fertilizer from Amazon.com
How To Use: Mix the recommended amount on the label into the soil around shrubs and water well. Dosage will be specific to container size, plant size, and ground plantings.
Customer Reviews: Gardeners are reporting how well this works on azaleas and camellias grown in warmer climates. The positive effect it has on plants worn down by environmental stresses is such a relief. 4.6 out of 5 stars.
- Contains patented probiotics for healthy soil
- Certified organic by the OMRI
- Pets may be attracted to it when used as a tea
5. Down to Earth All Natural Acid Mix Fertilizer 4-3-6
Specifically formulated to balance soil pH, this option from Down to Earth is fortified with organic compounds like kelp and fish meal. Encouraging lush, bountiful flowers and fruit in both spring and fall and improving resistance to harsh winter climates. While ensuring pH levels are appropriate for optimum nutrient absorption.
How To Use: Spread 1 lb of granules per 1″ of trunk diameter around the base within the drip line. Mix into the soil and water well. View Down To Earth Acid Mix Fertilizer prices here.
Customer Reviews: Consumers are spreading the word! Nutrients won’t help if your pH is too high. Down to Earth’s acid mix organically nourishes plants with natural compounds, while balancing soil pH for bountiful, healthy plants. 4.7 out of 5 stars.
- Enriched with kelp and fish meal
- Encourages plentiful organic fruits and flowers
- Larger doses may be needed than with other options
How to Fertilize Azaleas and Camellias
Azaleas and Camellias are easy to care for and don’t need much fertilizer to produce a dramatic result. Fertilizing can be accomplished by working dry granules, in recommended doses, right into the soil or inserting long-lasting spikes around your plants and shrubs within the drip line. These methods will provide you the option of offering a consistent flow of slow-release nutrients with every watering or rainfall.
Diluting water-soluble granules and applying the resulting ‘tea’ gives you more control over the amount and frequency of feeding. This option also gives you a more immediate result.
Fertilizing Azaleas for Best Blooms
Over-fertilizing won’t result in more blooms, only severe damage to the plant. The best way to increase blooms is to make sure azaleas are in full sun, all the spent blooms are pinched or pruned off and that they are well-mulched to ensure moisture retention.
Avoiding Fertilizer Burn
With azaleas and camellias, a little goes a long way. Not much fertilizer is required to achieve healthy, abundantly blooming plants when used as directed. Slow-release feeds typically carry far less risk of plant burn though because they’re pre-measured. More care should be taken with liquid feeds.
When to Fertilize Azaleas and Camellias
For camellias, feeding during bloom time will only result in increased foliage. The best time, with both slow and quick-release applications, will be in spring, just as buds begin to form and again in late summer or fall, after all, flowers have faded, to ensure resistance to colder weather.
With azaleas, the best time to fertilize is right after their spring bloom to encourage the production of more buds. If you feel a second application is needed, this should be done in mid to late summer, but no later than August 1st.
How Often to Fertilize Azaleas
Azaleas will take water-soluble feeds generally every 1-2 weeks within the recommended fertilizing time frame. Slow-release options, roughly every 6-8 weeks, which means once in spring and again, if needed, in fall. These blooming beauties are sensitive to heavy fertilization, so they don’t need to be continually fertilized throughout the year. Another reason why they’re the most economical to grow. Oftentimes, one good fertilizing regimen in spring will last all year.
Verdict: Best Camellia and Azalea Fertilizer
Looks like the verdict is in! Camellias and azaleas can be gorgeous and cost-effective additions to any landscape. They’re so easy to care for as they don’t require a lot of heavy fertilizing. And the best fertilizer for azaleas and camellias will have a simple, balanced NPK that also helps get soil pH to a healthy level for your acid-lovers.
My number one top pick is Jobe’s Fertilizer Spikes Plant Food For Azalea & Camellias if you like things nice and simple. This slow-release option with its mess-free design will help maintain healthy soil pH as well as encourage bigger, better blooms.
Alternatively, for a water-soluble, quick-acting fertilizer that will also help to maintain soil acidity and encourage that all-important flowering, choose Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Azalea, Rhododendron Plant Food 30-30-10
My top pick granular fertilizer for Azaleas goes to Espoma Organic Holly Tone Fertilizer Evergreen & Azalea Food. This is specifically designed for acid-loving plants and will nourish the soil, increase the size and number of azalea blooms, and support a robust plant structure throughout.