A potted azalea is a popular winter-flowering houseplant, whether you give it as a hostess gift at Christmas or to yourself to combat the winter “blahs.” When there is snow on the ground and trees are bare, nothing beats the shocking color of a flowering azalea. If you have one of these popular florist azaleas, usually an Indica hybrid, you should have moved it indoors by now, into a brightly lit area near a window and out of direct sun. (These azaleas will grow outdoors in the ground in the Southern states.)
An Indica azalea needs a good amount of humidity. You can accomplish this indoors by either misting it daily or by setting the pot on a tray of pebbles, which you keep filled with water. The pot must not set in the water, but be suspended above it by the pebbles. This way, the water evaporates and automatically mists the shrub. Once the flower buds appear and start to open, cut out the misting and/or take away the pebble tray.
Grow Indica azaleas cool while they are blooming. Temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit can cause leaf and/or bud drop. Too, the flowers will not last long in a hot room. If you have a window that leaks cold air and does not receive direct sun, this could be the ideal spot for your blooming azalea!
Once the azalea has finished blooming, you can repot it into an acidic potting mix if it has outgrown its container. Add some bark to the mix if it isn’t free draining. Stay away from mixes that contain a lot of peat since peat will hold water. Keep the shrub’s roots just damp through the winter. Feed them once a month throughout the winter with a liquid fertilizer. This is a critical time as azaleas set next year’s flower buds very quickly after they finish blooming. It’s important for next year’s flowers that they receive good care at this time. Immediately after flowering is also the only safe time to do any branch pruning. Later cuts will most likely remove next year’s blossoms.
Come spring, once the threat of frost has left your area, move your potted azalea outdoors into a shady spot. Make sure it is watered and misted if rains and humidity are not present. Bring it back indoors in autumn, before the first frost, to begin the blooming season all over again.
Written by Joan Maloof,
Photographs by Robert Llewellyn
Trees don't have two eyes like we do, yet they can see. They know how much light is hitting their leaves, and they know the quality of that light, too. They know if it's summer or winter by the length of the day, and they know if it's noon or afternoon by the wavelength of the light.
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