Two sorts of Azalea are widely available as flowering pot plants. The Indian azalea (Rhododendron simsii) is by far the most popular one – the less usual type is the Japanese Azalea (Rhododendron obtusum). Both are dwarf shrubs which grow about 1-1½ ft high.
Countless Indian Azaleas are bought every year at Christmas time to provide decoration during the holiday season and into The New Year. When buying a plant pick one with a few open flowers and a mass of buds. Without correct care the flowers wilt and the leaves drop in a week or two. The secret of keeping a plant in bloom for many weeks and capable of coming back into flower the following year is to keep it wet (not just moist), distinctly cool and brightly lit. Remove faded flowers promptly.
Types of Azalea
The variety range of Indian Azalea is enormous. Pink is the popular color, but there are whites, reds and purples. There are attractive bicolors, such as the white-edged pink Inga and the pink-hearted white Osta. Both single and double varieties are available and so are ones with ruffled petals.
Recent novelties include trailing Azaleas and pyramid-shaped types. The blooms of the Japanese Azalea are smaller than the Indian Azalea ones, but this plant has the distinct advantage of thriving as a garden shrub if planted out when flowering is over.
Azalea caring tips
Keep the Azaleas cool – 50° to 60°F is ideal. Put the plant in brightly lit spot of the room, away from direct sunlight. Keep compost wet at all times and always use soft water. Mist leaves daily during flowering season.
After flowering period move Azaleas to a cool but frost-free room and continue watering. Place pots in a shady spot in the garden once the danger of frost is past. Keep fed, watered and sprayed until early fall.