Azalea


Azalea 'Flandresse'

∙Water - 🔸🔸🔸

Azalea aren't a fan of having dry feet for too long. Once the top third of the soil has dried out, rehydrate by using the bottom-up method to reduce the chance of fungal diseases associated with excess moisture on the foliage. Submerge the bottom fifth of the pot in a saucer of water until thorough absorption. Repeat this step weekly, especially with those grown in bright, warmer locations. Whilst the plant is in bloom, it's important not to use cold water as this will quickly shock the roots, causing multiple issues down the line. Under-watering symptoms include rapid flower loss and dry, sunken leaves; these issues are usually due to either forgetfulness, too much sunlight or too much heat. Over-watering symptoms include rotting lower leaves, yellowing leaves, a loss of buds or flowers, and root rot. Allow the majority of the soil to dry out in between waters, preventing a pool of standing water to accumulate beneath the pot.


∙Humidity - 🔸🔸

Average room humidity is more than enough to occupy an Azalea, as too high humidity and poor air circulation will result in powdery mildew. Do not mist the flowers as this will cause botrytis petal blight that can spread quickly if not dealt with accordingly. Never situate this plant within three metres of an operating radiator as it will cook both the plant and the surrounding air moisture. 


∙Location & Light - 🔸🔸🔸

If you're a forgetful waterer, avoid direct sunlight costs - the combination of too little soil moisture and intense rays will quickly lead to a miserable plant. If, however, you can provide good soil moisture throughout the year, a splash of either morning or evening sun will greatly benefit the Azalea. Never situate this plant in a shady spot; if you're worried about its location being too dark, if a newspaper can be read while having your back towards the light source, you're good to go.

Location - Place this on, or within two metres of a north-facing window if you tend to under-water plants. A metre away from an east or west facing windowsill is the ideal location for good quality growth over the year. Never situate an Azalea in full sun, or a location that'll exceed the maximum temperature bracket of 25ºC  (77ºF) - an example of this would be a south or east facing conservatory.


∙Fertilisation - 🔸🔸

Use a fertiliser high in potassium to prolong its flowers during the festive period - an excellent example would be a Tomato Feed. Regular fertilisers, for instance, BabyBio or Miracle-Gro, will still do the job but will favour foliar growth instead. For the rest of the year, a standard fertiliser can be used to supplement the plant.


A developing Azalea bud that'll fully open within seven days, lasting for two weeks.


Common Issues with Azalea

Under-watering is the biggest issue when it comes to an Azalea. Typical signs of this include wilting, sunken leaves, rapid flower or bud drop and stunted growth. Not only will you have to be mindful of persistent droughts, think about which plant parts to keep dry. Its foliage must also remain dry at all times to prevent the development of diseases and blights. Those situated in direct sunlight or within four metres of a radiator are more likely to suffer from under-watering related issues.

Too much sunlight will lead to sun scorch, with typical signs including browning or crispy leaves, dry leaf-edges, sunken leaves or stunted growth. Although too little light will cause over-watering issues, too much sunlight will be a detriment, too. Unfortunately, indoor Azalea cannot tolerate more than two hours of direct sunlight a day, unlike their outdoor counterparts. If yours has fallen short of this, reduce the amount of sunlight considerably and always be mindful of environmental shock (when too locations offer too different growing conditions). Remove some of the affected leaves and increase waters slightly. Only hydrate the plant using the bottom-up method.

As mentioned before, powdery mildew and botrytis are major threats among heavy foliage plants due to the compact nature that aids the spread of the diseases. Watering above the foliage will allow excess moisture to sit in the cubbyholes of the stem, enticing harmful bacteria to thrive. Remove the affected areas and improve the growing conditions by situating the plant in a brighter location with the use of the bottom-up method of irrigation.

Never situate an Azalea in more than two hours of direct sunlight or within four metres of an operating heat source, for instance a radiator or fireplace. Due to the heightened temperature, the plant will soak up far more moisture than those situated in cooler locations, increasing the chance of droughts and inevitable death. This species cannot cope with persistent dry soil; you're skating on thin ice if an Azalea starts to wilt. 

Sudden flower loss can be caused by an array of different issues, including an change in location, too little hydration, too hot or cold temperatures or droughts and pests. Whilst the plant is in bloom, keep the soil evenly moist, to hydrate the thirsty work of producing flowers. Locations that are outside of the recommended temperature bracket, or have drastic fluctuations must also be kept off the cards, as Azaleas can be very sensitive to the ambient warmth that they're situated in. The final issue could be to do with pests. Although it's highly unlikely that an infestation will cause a sudden change in health, have a quick inspection for whiteflyaphids and mealybugs

Pests could also be an issue, most notably being whitefly and mealybugs. Especially before purchasing, have a quick scan over the plant's foliage and flowers, inspecting its cubbyholes for those white critters. If your specimen has fallen foul of pests, click on the appropriate links to learn more about treatment, as well as observing what they look like. 




Dormancy Care & Annual Flowers

Trying to re-flower an Azalea isn't the easiest of tasks, but those that have a cool room without artificial light at night will be on the upper-hand. Although indoor Azaleas are within the same genus as the hardy varieties, they'll both naturally flower at different times of the year, with the indoor types flowering across the autumn and winter months.

Repotting isn't usually mandatory if you want it to re-bloom - in fact, this may hurt the chances. Only repot every two to three years and after the blooming has finished. To get it to flower in the cooler months, think back to its previous dormancy period served in the spring. The following steps should be done at the start of spring, when Azaleas enter their dormancy. 

Light

Be sure to provide a bright location with no direct sunlight over the course of the year. Although the sunlight won't necessarily hurt the plant, you can easily fall in the trap of under-watering, potentially weakening the plant. In order for the Azalea to fully become seasoned, avoid the use of artificial lighting during the spring and summer nights.

Hydration

Reduce irrigations so that the majority of the soil becomes dry. Remember, they should only be watered from the bottom-up as rotting foliage are a common issue with cooler temperatures.

Occasional Feeds

While it's bloom, use a Tomato fertiliser to provide a nourishment of potassium. During the dormancy period, only supplement once or twice to carry it through until the following summer, using a general houseplant fertiliser. 

Reduce Everything

This one is to remind you that everything needs to be reduced - especially the temperature.

Temperature

This is the most significant step - keep the temperature within 12 - 15℃  (53 - 59℉) throughout spring, until buds form in late summer. It'll be highly unlikely for Azaleas to sufficiently bloom when the ambient temperatures are kept the same all year around, so ukhouseplants cannot empathise the importance of temperature.


Variegated specimens are continually on the rise in garden centres, due to their high-demand.


Origins

There are over eighty species of Azalea, which isn't its own genus and instead falls under a sub-genus to the Rhododendron. They have natural distributions in most continents, most notably being Central Asia and North America. The sub-genus was first described back in the mid nineteenth century by Jules Planchon, with the name, Azalea, being penned by Carl Linnaeus for the Greek word for 'dry' that refers to the several species' tendency to thrive in well-draining soil.


Temperature

10°C - 25°C   (50° - 78°F)
H1c - can be grown outdoors in spring and summer in a sheltered location, but is fine to remain indoors. If you decide to bring this houseplant outdoors, do not allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as this will burn the leaves. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when retrieving the plant back indoors. 

Azalea thrive in cooler locations and will generally flower better if a good dormancy is served in the spring when the temperature dips below 12°C  (54°F).


Spread

Up to 0.6m in height and 0.7m in width. The ultimate height will take between 4 - 6 years to achieve.


Pruning

Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and improve the all-round appearance. Pruning must be done with clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases; remember to make clean incisions as too much damage can shock the plant.

It's quite difficult for amateurs to shape an Azalea, as it'll take a big effort over the year to promote a globular shape. Instead, allow the flowers to fully elapse (usually in end of winter) before pruning the foliage back a third in time for their dormancy.


Propagation

 Via seed or stem cuttings. To learn about the critical essentials with sowing seeds, be sure to click on this link - Seed Propagation Tips

For stem cuttings, use shoots that have a soft, bendy wooded base that haven't flowered; this propagation method can be taken in at the end of winter. They should be at least 7cm in length and are found in the outer edge of the plant where the new growth takes place. Remove the lower half of the leaves, dip the wound in a rooting hormone and place in a well-draining potting mix - Seed & Cuttings Compost is advised. While the plantlet is still young, avoid direct sunlight and water-logging and repot as necessary, once the roots have surpassed 2cm in length. This method can be quite difficult, so be sure to take a few cuttings with differing variables to see which suits your skills the best.


Flowers

Indoor Azaleas will flower between autumn and winter if grown correctly with a good dormancy served in the spring and early summer months. Each individual flower will last up to two weeks, with the overall show lasting up to six weeks. Supplement the plant using a fertiliser high in potassium to prolong its flowers - Streptocarpus or Tomato feeds are an excellent choice.


Repotting

Repot every two or three years using Houseplant compost with added perlite or grit at the start of summer.  For matured specimens, introduce more grit to promote a stronger root ball as well as the reduction of potential root rot; click on this link for more information on how to perform the perfect transplant. Never repot whilst the plant is budding or in bloom.


Diseases & Pests

Common diseases with Azaleas are root or crown rot, powdery mildew, leaf-spot disease, botrytis petal blight and powdery mildew. Keep an eye out for whitefly, spider mite, thrips, aphids & mealybugs. For more info on how to address any of these issues, hit this link.  Identifying Common Houseplant Pests & Diseases


Toxicity

Azaleas are considered highly poisonous if consumed by pets and humans. If high quantities are eaten, it may result in vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite.


Retail Locations

Some florists & Online Stores. Specimens are likely to be found in autumn at most garden centres. A small selection of Azaleas are sold during the spring and summer, but generally won't last as long as those sold later in the year. It's not advised to bring outdoor specimens inside as this could lead to environmental shock or the introduction of foreign pests into the home.

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