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Now's the best time to plant the Fashion azalea, which will bloom throughout the year. 

When azaleas are in full bloom during early spring, they are one of the most spectacular shrubs for the garden. They are all the craze for two to three weeks of the year.

Many people would scoff at the notion of planting this shrub during the vast majority of the rest of the year.

But with clever breeding programs and observant nurserymen, there are now many varieties of reblooming azaleas.

The Fashion azalea is one variety that puts off a wonderful display of salmon-to-orange-colored blooms beginning in early spring, similar to the traditional azaleas, and giving waves of fresh flowers throughout the remainder of the year.

Another remarkable selection is the Conversation Piece azalea. This variety was a Louisiana Super Plant selection in fall 2012 and has lived up to its namesake, being a focal point of many gardens. A notable feature of the Conversation Piece azalea is the multiple colors of blooms, ranging from dark pink to nearly white. Brands such as Encore and Bloom-a-thon have many combinations of colors, sizes and textures to choose from.

Reblooming azaleas will consistently flower in the early spring, much like a traditional azalea, but as the name suggests, these shrubs will have at least one more bloom episode throughout the year. And in some varieties, more than two bloom sessions will occur. The flower count might be slightly less than that of the traditional azaleas but will no doubt continue to amaze throughout the entire gardening season.

Just like traditional single-blooming azaleas, repeat-blooming azaleas have a rather small window of opportunity to be pruned properly without reducing the quality of the bloom cycle. Obviously, don't prune an azalea while it's blooming, as the blooms would be lost. Also, don't prune when the flower buds are being set for the following year in late June. So pruning should be done after the shrub has finished blooming and before late June. If you prune after June, the azaleas won't give a very good showing in spring.

When pruning in late spring, couple this task with an application of fertilizer if needed. Be sure to pick and discard any clippings and weeds that are pulled. Clippings and weeds left on the ground can harbor disease and insect pests, leading to unhealthy plants later in the season.

The best time to plant azaleas is October through December. Though they can be planted in spring and summer, planting now will give these shrubs time to send out roots into the surrounding soils and get adapted to the area come spring and summer.

It can take azaleas one to two years to become fully established in the landscape. It is incredibly important to monitor water applications during this establishment period. Be sure to plant all azaleas in an acidic soil ranging from 5.0-6.0 pH. Performing a soil test through the LSU Agricultural Center is the best way to determine your soil’s pH as well as fertility needs.

Email gardennews@agcenter.lsu.edu. Follow Lee Rouse on Twitter, @rouses_horticulture.