The Q&A Archives: Azalea Propagation

Question: I recently purchased a large specimen "Tutti Fruity" azalea and would like to add more by air layering technique. Previous attempts at propagation by softwood cuttings were not successful and the branches are not long enough for ground layering. Will air layering work on azaleas and can you give specific instructions?

Answer: process can take several months. Mound layering is a simple procedure; bend one of the branches down so part of it makes contact with the soil. Make a small notch in the underside of the branch and hold the wound open with a small rock or piece of toothpick. Place the wounded branch area on the soil and mound additional soil over the top to anchor the branch in the soil. Roots will grow from the wounded area and a new stem will grow from one of the nodes. Once the roots have formed, generally in about 3-4 months, the branch can be cut from the parent plant. You can also try tip layering, in which one of the branch tips is gently pulled down and buried in soil. Roots will form and a new stem will emerge. Again, this takes several months to accomplish. Another propagation technique is to take several cuttings from the azalea. Choose new shoots at the ends of branches that are still soft and pliable, and cut them from the parent plant. The cuttings should be about 6 inches long. Use a razor blade to make a clean cut, and try not to flatten the stem as you cut it. Remove the lower leaves, dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and place each cutting into moistened potting soil or seed starting mix. Place the cuttings in a shady spot outdoors. Keep the potting soil moist, and mist the cuttings every morning. When they've rooted you'll see new stem and leaf growth.
Finally, here's some information on air layering. This proceedure requires some sphagnum moss and plastic wrap. First, moisten the moss well. Make a shallow slice in the branch where you want to take the cutting. Don't cut it all the way through, though. Press a little of the damp moss into the cut, being careful not to bend the branch too far and break it. Alternatively, you can wedge a wooden toothpick or matchstick into the slice to prop it open a little. Then, wrap the moist moss all around the cut, and cover the ball of moss with the plastic wrap, securing it with tape (on the plastic only, not the bark) above and below the cut. Check the moss every few weeks to be sure it's still moist. Check the plastic frequently, and eventually you'll see little roots growing. When you see them, it's time to remove the plastic and moss, and cut the branch off just below the roots, and pot it up.

Hope one of these methods works for you!

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