Do you have azaleas on the windowsill or in the garden or has someone made you such a flowery gift and you would like to know more about this kind of flower? These plants manage to beautify any area where they are found through their beautiful colors, which is why they are among the preferences of Romanians, and not only. Here is some useful information.
Azaleas are part of the genus Rhododendron and are groups of shrubs of different sizes. They have a decorative role of interior and exterior, not having too many demands in terms of care, originating from areas with mild climates in terms of winters (India, China, Japan, USA). What makes this plant special? Let’s see!
The differences between other types of rhododendron and azaleas are in the way the flowers are positioned on the branches and in their size. The flowers will be positioned especially at the top of the branch, the crown having a compact appearance, due to the frequent flowering. The plant is green throughout the year, flowering only in spring, the efflorescences lasting a few weeks.
Appearance and color are features that help select your favorite type, with some more popular than others.
A garden azalea is grown outdoors, there are protected wild species found in the Carpathian Mountains (Peony Mountain) and options that are planted in pots or on their own land, in areas where winter does not exceed -17 degrees Celsius.
Potted or dwarf azaleas are found inside, having smaller dimensions. The two common typologies are the Japanese azalea (Rhododendron obtusum), which has small flowers that can withstand pots and outdoors, and the Indian azalea (Rhododendron simsii), most commonly found in florists and shops.
How to care for the azalea
There are multiple aspects to consider when choosing a azalea tree. First, you will see what type of soil is suitable for this plant. The soil should be acidic, with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5, and with good drainage, but if you do not have such a thing, a calcareous soil with an ammonium treatment is enough.
The garden azalea needs additional care, because it is not exactly recommended to be planted directly in the ground, preferring the pots, so that they are protected in winter by digging. However, when introduced directly into the ground, a more suitable place will be in semi-shady or shady, humid areas, where sunlight does not penetrate directly, near conifers such as thuja or fir, or near lilies, mountain laurels, snowdrops, daffodils or dracila Japanese.
Most plants for sale in our country are houseplants, and the rules of indoor azalea care will be similar to the needs for the outdoor plant. When purchased, the plant should have only a few open flowers and several cracked buds, so you can enjoy the beautiful color.
Watering will be common to keep the soil moist, but not wet, using the saucer under the pot. A Japanese azalea needs temperatures between 18 and 20 degrees to grow, withstanding very well at 25 degrees. It is not positioned in the window, where it can be affected by the sun’s rays, but in beautifully lit rooms.
Azalea — care in the cold season
For azaleas, additional care will be performed in winter, because they are specific to the warm climate and at negative temperatures below 17 degrees can die. To protect them from the cold, you will have to dress them in thick sackcloth or buy bags specially designed to protect the bushes for the outdoors.
For this type of Rhododendron, a winter care involves “gathering” the plant in a place where temperatures do not fall below freezing, preferably in a greenhouse, a solarium, an enclosed balcony, going through a period of hibernation that lasts two months, during which time you will water it less often, without adding fertilizer.
Azaleas — Cultivation
Japanese azaleas, like garden varieties, need frequent watering during flowering, the soil must always be moist, requiring well-drained terracotta pots to maintain a constant temperature. For the outside ones, there is the possibility to use sprinklers or the hydration is done manually, as in the house pot. In summer it will be watered frequently while, during the rest periods, 1–2 waterings per week will be used.
After shaking the flowers, the azalea tree care scheme includes maintaining watering, but it will be rarer, adding fertilizer and, after giving the frosts, it will wait a while (2–3 large frosts) until the next watering.
Fertilization and multiplication
The tree in the garden or on the windowsill can be helped to grow by administering a specific fertilizer (consisting of phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium) every two weeks, during the flowering season, stopping the process when the plant is at rest.
Propagation can be done by seeds, pruning, grafting or pruning. Although seed multiplication is not very difficult to achieve, it takes a long time and is not exactly preferred, because it requires the fulfillment of certain criteria that are difficult to control in our country. In addition, the plant may have a different color from the mother because it is crossed.
The most popular is propagation by cuttings, which involves cutting a portion of azaleas and reintroducing it into the ground. It will guarantee the preservation of the shape and color of the flowers. The cutting takes place under leaf intersections, a branch should be around 15 cm, the branch should be slightly flexible. The base of leaves and buds will be cleaned and soaked in rooting solution for garden rhododendron, then placed in a pot 12 cm in diameter, filled with peat. Water frequently, taking up to two months to form roots. This action should take place in March, April or May.
Diseases and pests
There are not many dangers for this type of Rhododendron, but care can be taken to prevent the appearance of aphids, nematodes, caterpillars, spiders or whiteflies. These insects can be controlled through phytosanitary products, and can be taken care of by applying preventive treatments.
Other problems that can occur are temperatures above 25 degrees, which lead to drying of flowers and leaves. Drying of the soil can lead to the death of the plant, and excessive watering can lead to rot of azalea roots.
Last but not least, humidity and lack of ventilation can cause the appearance of fungi that will lead to blackening of parts of the leaves or their rot and twigs.