The Q&A Archives: Saving Mother's Azaleas

Question: I received a potted azalea from my mother-in-law's funeral and I am trying to keep it alive. I have had it approximately 3 weeks and it is now in bloom. The tips of the leaves have become a little brown and the leaves drop off if you shake or bump the plant. Why is this happening, and if it survives, when do I repot the shrub?

Answer: The azalea you received has been forced to bloom out of season and may not be a good candidate for keeping. You can try, but I suspect it's already suffering from stress.

There are two types of Azaleas available as flowering pot plants. 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. If your plant is dropping leaves, it's communicating unhappiness with its new growing environment. It may be overheated, in a draft, or not getting the moisture it requires. Try to find a more suitable spot for your new plant and it might perk right up.

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