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Caring for Azalea Plants

Azaleas are among the most popular flowering plants. Their abundant, colorful, and long lasting flowers, combined with a compact growth habit and the ability to be planted outdoors, makes them an ideal choice for gift-giving. And with the Mothers Day holiday just passed, thousands of blooming azalea plants were undoubtedly presented to appreciative Moms everywhere. So this month’s newsletter topic is especially timely.

Hot Pink Azalea Caring for Indoor Azaleas

Azalea plants received as gifts may be kept indoors for as long as the flowers are colorful. Place the plants in a location which receives bright but indirect sunlight. Keep the soil evenly moist at all times, but never waterlogged. Azalea plants which are grown in pots are frequently in a root-bound condition, and may need to be watered fairly often. Don’t, however, allow the plants to sit in a water-filled saucer, or the roots may be irreversibly damaged. Azaleas benefit from regular misting with water to increase the humidity around them, and to deter spider mites which can sometimes plague them if the atmosphere is too dry.

Planting Azaleas Outdoors

Once the blooms have faded, caring for azalea plants is easiest if they are planted outdoors. Choose a bright location which is out of direct sunlight. Dig a hole at least twice as wide and deep as the plant’s root ball. Add a generous amount of peat moss to the soil, which will increase the organic content and raise the acidity to a level preferred by azaleas. Refill the hole about two-thirds deep with the amended soil, slightly mounding it at the center. Remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen up the root ball, cutting through it with a knife if necessary, so as to encourage new roots to grow into the surrounding earth. Place the plant on top of the mounded soil in the hole and spread the roots around. Fill in around the plant with the remaining soil mixture, tamping it firmly without compacting it, and water generously to help settle the plant. Remember to water the azalea regularly as it becomes established.

Caring for Outdoor Azaleas

Caring for azalea plants isn’t difficult at all if a few simple cultural requirements are met. Azaleas (botanically, Rhododendron species) are members of broad family of acid-loving plants which includes heathers, laurels, and blueberries. These so-called “Ericaceous” plants (after Erica, the genus name for heather) thrive in moist, organic soils with a relatively low pH level of 4.5 to 5.5, meaning that it is fairly acidic. The azalea plants sold by florists are generally evergreen, and can be safely planted outdoors in areas where the average minimum winter temperature doesn’t fall below 0 to -10 degrees F. In colder climates (north of Zone 6), they are best grown in greenhouses.

Pruning Azaleas

Azaleas grow slowly and rarely need pruning. However, to maintain them at a certain size or to increase the density of their growth, azaleas may be pruned immediately after they’ve completed flowering, just as the new growth is being produced. These shrubs bloom each spring on the previous season’s growth, having formed buds by summer’s end, so don’t prune them after early summer lest you sacrifice next year’s flowers.

Fertilizing Azaleas

Properly caring for azalea plants includes regular feeding to promote healthy growth and copious flowers. Choose a fertilizer which has been specially formulated for acid-loving plants, such as camellias, hollies, and rhododendrons, and apply according to the manufacturer’s directions during the growing season. Azaleas can sometimes suffer from a condition known as chlorosis, a mottled yellowing of the leaves with the veins remaining green. This is caused by low acidity or a lack of iron in the soil, and may be remedied by the application of liquified iron.

With just a little tender loving care, your azalea plants will flourish for generations, rewarding you each spring with bouquets of lovely flowers to grace your landscape or garden, and reminding you always of the gifts they represent. Consult your local professional florist and brighten someone’s life with a beautiful blooming azalea.

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Comments

  1. Irene I Blea says:

    I have received two lovely pots of Azelias. Can I feed them Mirical Grow?

  2. First off, there is a specially designed Miracle Grow called Miracid for acid-loving plants. You should be able to find this at any garden center. This is the best type of fertilizer for your azaleas. However, it’s best not to feed them during their dormant cycle which is winter. I would suggest waiting until March or April before you give them any fertilizer. Hope this helps!

  3. I just received an azalia for Mother’s day. And would like to find out how to care for it. I live in Montana and in the winter it gets below zero at times, can I plant this azelea out side? Please advise me, thank you. Emily Combs

  4. Emily,

    I don’t think the azalea will make it through the winter in your area. So, you will need to treat it like a houseplant. The first thing you need to do is remove the pretty decorative foil from around the pot. the foil is pretty but will not allow the plant to drain properly. Azaleas do not like their roots to sit in water. Keep the plant moist but not soggy and place in a room that gets bright light. Be careful if you place it right in front of a window since the window can intensify the heat. You may want to repot the azalea into a more attractive pot. Make sure the new pot has drain holes. You will be able to place the potted azalea outside except in the very cold part of your winter.

    Be sure to fertilize the azalea once a month April through August every year. You can trim the Azalea right after it quits blooming. If you need more azalea care instruction, please don’t hesitate to ask.

  5. Joan Little says:

    I love all this information, and tried to print it out, but found the printing so small that I cannot read it, so will have to figure out some other way to make sure I do this correctly. I have received a potted azalea, have a nice small container type box outside, and will plant it out there, and see what happens. I live in Ontario, so the winters are not too severe. I will use the Miracle grow that is suggested in the comments, as I know I can purchase that. Thanks

  6. We are glad you found this information helpful. I am sorry about the small text in the print view. I will see what I can do about that. In the meantime, you might try to copy and paste the information in a text editor like Word to print. Hope this helps. Thanks again, Joan.

  7. LonzoinNC says:

    Joan Little, copy and paste the text you want to save from webpages to your text editor (i.e. Windows notepad or MS Word, etc.) and you can re-size and print to your liking.

  8. I am living in southern Ontario, last winter I’ve left my azalea plant out side. The plant seems dead to me and I was just about to throw it out. But I spotted a new growth on one of the dead branches. Can I still save the plant? Please give me some advice how to save this plant. Thank you.

  9. Helen,

    There is a possibility that the plant may make it. The first thing you need to do is check all the branches. Use your fingernail to scrap a small area on the branch. If the scrapped area is still green then the branch is still alive. If not trim the branch off until you find green wood. Once you have done this to all the branches, you will be able to tell how much of the plant is still viable.

  10. Amber Quinney says:

    Hi there, I recieved this beautiful plant for my birthday 2 weeks ago. I noticed the leaves were falling off a little the first week so I thought maybe it needed a little water. I left it a couple days and the leaves continued to fall off. I thought about the drainage and took the fancy foil off the pot last week. It still coninues to lose leaves and buds, it is starting to look pretty sad. Can it be saved? What can I do? Please help

  11. Amber, removing the foil was a smart decision. Although the foil is pretty it can cause problems. If you live in zone 4 through 10 your best option is to plant the mum outside. It will dieback and go dormant after a killing frost but should come back in the spring.

  12. carrie buker says:

    If I overwatered my azalea and didn’t know about the drainage issues can I save my plant and how please. Thanks

  13. Carrie,

    Make sure any excess water can drain away from the plant and then let it dry slightly before watering.

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