The Q&A Archives: Azalea Care

Question: I received an azealea bush as a gift and am not sure of the care required in my region. I had it indoors most of the early spring but moved it outside in April or May. How long can I leave it outdoors? It is getting into the mid to upper 40's at night now. Should I do anything special before I bring it inside?

Answer: There are many types of azaleas. While some varieties are very tender and do not tolerate cold winter weather, there are numerous hardier types with new ones being introduced all the time. These may be sold either in pots or as "ball and burlap" plants. Your best bet is to purchase your azalea from a reputable nursery which stocks only varieties known to be reliably hardy in your climate zone and local conditions. (Many of the azaleas sold in full flower by florist shops are not hardy.) For example, two time-tested and popular azaleas in your area "Delaware Valley White" and "Hershey Red". If you know the name of the azalea you purchased, you may be able to determine if it is likely to be hardy for you or not.

There are two types of Azaleas available as flowering pot plants and are best suited for wintering indoors. The Indian Azalea (Rhododendron simsii) is the most popular one. The second type is the Japanese Azalea (Rhododendron obtusum). Both are dwarf shrubs which grow about 1' - 1 1/2' tall. The Indian Azalea blooms in pink, white, red or purple, and some are white-edged. The flowers of the Japanese Azalea are smaller, but the plant has the advantage of growing outdoors in mild winter climates. Either type will thrive indoors if the soil is kept wet (not just moist), it's in a brightly lit spot away from direct sunlight, and the plant is kept cool (50F - 60F) at all times. Mist the leaves daily while the plant is in bloom and remove spent blooms to encourage additional flowering.

Nighttime temperatures in the 40's are too cold for tender azaleas, so bring your plant indoors now. You can help with the transition by keeping it in a cool place indoors for a few days, then gradually moving it into a warm room.

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