New Azaleas – Drying Out After Planting
Q: I think an unknown animal is urinating on and killing my azaleas after planting. I fear that it might be an animal that is out mainly at night. I don’t believe they are under-watered.
A: I rarely get to use this phrase but I think Occam’s Razor applies here: “The simplest answer is usually the better answer.”
I think the problem is almost definitely not animal urine but dry roots. There are several things that contribute to this dry root problem. The first is that in a nursery azaleas can grow too large for their container. Under a nursery’s care azaleas are watered almost every day and the root system is never allowed to dry out.
Azalea roots also tend to make a hard layer inside the pot interior, making it difficult to apply the amount of water they need after planting.
When they are planted, unless the roots are thoroughly broken up and spread into the planting hole, it’s very easy for them to become dry. Once the root ball become dry it repels water and only a small trickle of water applied at the base of the stem for thirty minutes will rehydrate it
It looks to me like your azaleas simply dried out after being put in the ground.
In my experience you’ll get better results from buying small azaleas and washing the soil completely away from the roots and planting them in almost a bare root state.
In the absence of any seen animal but in the presence of drought and typically overgrown nursery azaleas, drought damage is the best answer. (Unless a Great Dane is roaming around!)