Botanical Name: Rhododendron simsii
Origin: Asian hybrids
Height: While Dwarf Azaleas tend to be fairly compact, regular Azaleas may grow up to a height of around 60 cm (2 ft).
Soil: For this type of plant, a lime free, peat based potting mix is required.
Light: Azaleas like bright like, but should be kept out of direct sunlight.
Humidity: This is a plant that prefers to live in a place with moderate to high humidity. Raise humidity levels with the help of a wet pebble tray or a room humidifier. Misting is not a good idea, as Azaleas are prone to suffer from fungus, which may kill them.
Temperatures: Room temperatures should range between 16 and 21 degrees C (60 to 70 degrees F) to keep this house plant at its best.
Water: The potting mix should be continually kept moist, as dry soil will result in the leaves shrivelling and the flowers wilting. As Azaleas are acid-loving, they should not be watered with hard water. Distilled water or rainwater will be best for the plant, especially in areas where tap water is comparatively hard.
Fertiliser: A liquid high potassium fertiliser for acid-loving plants with added iron should be diluted one-part water to one-part fertiliser and fed to the plant once a fortnight during the growing season. Too much lime will cause nutrient deficiencies resulting in yellow leaves featuring green lines.
Propagation: While it is possible to use stem cuttings to propagate this house plant, they tend to root very slowly and the resulting plant rarely matches the parent's quality.
Description and Care Tips
Generally known as the Florist's Azalea, this tender spreading shrub has oval, dark green leaves. During winter and spring, clusters of 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 in) wide flowers appear at the tips of the plant's wooden stems. These flowers are frequently semi-double or double, and some varieties produce flowers with ruffled petals. Colours may range from white and pink through peach or lavender to red, with some cultivars providing bi-colour blooms.
Providing the plant has plenty of bright light and room temperatures are kept comparatively cool, this plant should bloom for around three to four weeks. Sadly, the Azalea is often treated as a temporary plant and is discarded after blooming. It is, however, possible to make it bloom again.
For this, it is necessary to give the plant around two month of cold rest (4 to 13 degrees C, 40 to 55 degrees F) during autumn/ winter. After this, it should produce new buds.
Yearly pruning after flowering will force stems to branch out and encourage more flowers, as these will grow from new stem tips. The best way to prune Azaleas is to cut stems a quarter of an inch above leaf nodes (where branches or leaves are attached to stems). The cut should be made at a 45 degree angle, using sharp pruners to prevent the woody stems from tearing.
This plant needs to be protected from drafts and dry, hot air coming from heat vents, as exposure will cause buds to shrivel up and go brown. If the leaves turn brown, there is a good chance that the plant is affected by root rot or fungus. As it will not recover from this, it is best to discard it if this is the case.
Repotting will only be necessary once every three years or so, as this plant flowers better when it is a little pot bound. Repotting should always be done after flowering has ended, and pots with drainage holes must be used.
As this type of Azalea is frost tender, it should not be planted outdoors, unless winters are definitely going to be short and very mild.