Azaleas produce flowers that have wonderful colors that give life to any patio.
There are two basic types of azaleas that you can grow in your garden. Evergreen azaleas produce two sets of leaves that drops during spring and fall. Deciduous azaleas only lose leaves once during the fall season. This variety produces flowers that have intense colors. Growing azaleas in pots can be easily done as long as you give the plant what it needs.
Starting your cultivation
Azaleas can be picky about where they get located. The usual hurdle that most gardeners face when growing azaleas in containers are the amount of sun it receives. Azaleas prefer a location that has the best of the morning sun, but the protection of a shade in the afternoon.
Too much sun will wash out the color of the flowers, and too much shade will not encourage the plant to bloom. It needs moderate temperatures with humid conditions, although Azaleas can grow relatively well in zone 5 to zone 9. It can also grow in zone 4, although it would be best to find a variety that will grow well in that area.
A location that has adequate air ventilation but free from gusty winds is also ideal.
The specifications of your pot or container
A pot that is at least 8 inches deep and 8 inches wide will be enough for Azaleas. The bigger the container, the better it would be for your plants.
Azaleas need lots of room to allow their roots to grow. If roots do not have enough room to develop, your plant will have a problem getting nutrients and water from the soil. Whatever type of pot you choose, it is vital that you drill several drainage holes at the bottom.
This is to prevent water from pooling in the pot that can cause your Azaleas to drown. You will also need to line the bottom with several pieces of broken terra cotta pots or pea pebbles for the same purpose.
Others go a step ahead by lining the bottom with a fiberglass mesh to help prevent soil erosion as well as ensuring that pests do not get inside the pot.
Preparing your soil or potting mix
Your growing media is the heart of your garden. It must be dense enough to hold in moisture and nutrients, but light enough to encourage drainage. You need to purchase a good potting mix for your Azaleas for healthy growing Azaleas in containers.
The potting mix usually is made up of vermiculite or perlite, peat moss, and compost as well as a good amount of organic material. Adjust the pH to 5.5-6.0 by adding lime to increase it, or adding sulfur or more vermiculite to decrease. If you feel that your potting soil is too heavy, you can improve its drainage by adding coarse sand.
Once you have your potting mix ready, line the bottom of the pot with compost and top it up with the potting mix until 2 inches from the lip.
You can start growing Azaleas in pots from seeds. Purchase the variety that is best for the type of weather that you have, and make sure that you choose a variety that is resistant to disease.
Usually, the instructions in your seed packets will tell you to plant your Azaleas from the first of January until the end of March.
Never plant the seeds in the middle of April if you wish to have an established plant before fall arrives. If you do, however, have a greenhouse or special equipment that will help the germination and continued growth of your seedlings. The soil temperature must be at a constant range of 70™F-75™F to encourage germination.
Lower temperatures will only slow down the germination and can also cause problems with your seeds. The seeds are placed on top of the potting mix with a distance of 1-2 inches. Place a very thin layer of compost on top and use a sprayer to moisten the potting soil. Spray on the seeds until they are embedded in the soil.
If you are starting your cultivation indoors, use a seedling tray and place it 8 inches from a light source.
It needs up to 16 hours of light to encourage germination. Always check the potting mix and make sure that it is kept moist. Keep the seedlings from direct sunlight once they emerge.
Give your seedlings very weak fertilizer during watering, and make sure to keep the leaves dry.
Stop fertilizing by July to help harden off your plants. Sometimes, you will see grayish hair-like growth growing along with your Azaleas. This is actually a fungus that you need to eliminate with the use of a fungicide that is formulated for the damping-off disease.
It would be easier growing Azaleas in pots if you buy transplants instead from your local nursery or garden store. When you purchase your plants, check their condition. Ask if they can show you the roots of the plant by removing the plant from the pot so you can inspect the roots.
See if the roots are not clumped together and hold the soil well. Never choose a small, weak-looking plant for it may be sick or not taken care of well. Moisten first your potting mix and create a hole at the center that is slightly bigger than the pot in which your Azaleas came in.
Line the bottom with compost and place it in your Azaleas. It is important that the crown of your plant is about half an inch higher than the soil level. Pack down the soil to remove any air pockets so that you have the correct level of the soil. Air pockets will cause your soil to recede when you water your plants, causing more exposure than usual.
Water well and keep from direct sunlight for a week and harden off before you move them outside or by the window.
Care and Harvesting
Mulch the surface of the soil with compost or moss, but make sure that you keep it clean from the stem of the plant by at least 2 inches. This will help protect the roots of your plant during extreme weather conditions for Azaleas form a shallow root system.
Give your plants adequate fertilizer of 15-15-15, or feed them with compost tea every two weeks. Change your fertilizer to 10-15-15 or fish or seaweed emulsion to help encourage flowers once you see buds forming.
Once your plants have produced an adequate number of blossoms, change back to 15-15-15 or side-dress your plants with compost manure to encourage growth. Keep your plants healthy by snipping off spent flowers when growing azaleas in containers to help your plants store enough energy for the next season.