Azaleas are a favorite winter-blooming indoor plant. When I need a winter pick-me-up azaleas are often my go-to blooms. But truth be told, mine often have the same fate as a post-season poinsettia….once those gorgeous blooms are spent, the leaves follow a similar demise and soon the whole plant is dumped unceremoniously in the compost pile. Ouch! A tragic end for such a lovely plant, but take heart…azaleas can live a longer, healthier life by following a few practices specific to container culture. Here are a few quick tips and tricks to keep that azalea in good shape through the winter and beyond.
Azaleas need water. Unlike succulents that can go days without water, the roots of azaleas shouldn’t dry out. Plan on watering your azalea at least once a week or even more frequently if you’re home is dryer. To test if your plant is need of watering, push your finger into the soil to see if your plant is moist (not soggy) through the root ball. If it’s no longer moist, then it’s watering time.
If you just acquired your azalea, it’s probably wrapped in pretty florist paper and possibly tied with a nice raffia or satin bow. I encourage you to remove all of wrapping, place your azalea in a container with good drainage holes, then place the new container on a saucer or dish with gravel. It makes it so much easier to care for. This way when you water you can put the entire plant in the sink, saturate it, let it drain, and then set it back in the saucer or the dish with gravel.
Another good watering strategy is to forego tap water and use spring water instead. This helps alleviate salt and alkaline build up which can compromise the health of you plant.
Light & Humidity
In outdoor environments most azaleas do well in indirect or dappled light. Knowing this may lead you to set your indoor azalea in a low light environment, and I can’t say that I blame you. I’ve done the same. However, indoors azaleas will do much better if placed very near a window that receives indirect light. At a minimum your azalea should receive 4 hours of indirect light daily, six hours is optimal. Don’t worry about it being too cold, blooming azaleas like temps from 55 °F – 68° F. They also prefer higher humidity.
Fertilizing & Removing Blooms
Your azalea should bloom for 3-4 weeks. Fertilizing once a week with a water-soluble acid based fertilizer used at half-strength will help it along. However, during the summer months take a fertilizing break for at least a month or two. Also, remove spent blooms to keep your plant tidy and healthy.
Azaleas are acid loving plants. When it comes time to repot my azalea (the roots are beginning to circle inside its current container) I’ve had the best luck using a commercially prepared, peat-based potting mix. However, there are varying opinions on the best soil recipes for azaleas. You may find one that you like better. (For instance, the Azalea Society of America recommends a 50/50 mix of potting soil and pine bark.) Whatever soil mix you choose the container you transfer it to should be 2-4 inches wider than the plant’s root ball and about 1 ½ times as deep. Always make sure it provides good drainage.
I hope these tips help you maintain a healthy azalea. When the weather warms up you can put your plant outside. Take care to acclimate it slowly to outside temps and continue to water it!
Enjoy your blooms,
PS ∼ Please note, azaleas are not edible plants and some parts are toxic. For more information check out the Azalea Society of America.
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