The Q&A Archives: Keeping azaleas healthy

Question: I received an azalea for Easter this year. What should I do to keep it healthy? Jill Robinson Wagram, NC

Answer: The azaleas commonly sold by florists are not hardy in your area and should be grown as houseplants, says Barb Wilson, co-owner of Davidson-Wilson Greenhouses, growers of houseplants in Crawfordsville, Indiana. There are many varieties sold as houseplants. It's hard to get most of them to rebloom indoors, so the simplest solution is to compost the azalea after flowering and buy another next year, says Wilson. If you really want to try to make it rebloom indoors, here's how. Most florist azaleas have been grown in nursery pots their whole lives and come to florists very root-bound. After it's finished blooming, remove the azalea from the pot, prune about 1/2 inch around the rootball and repot it in a larger pot with fresh potting soil, says Wilson. Place it in a bright window until April or May, when it can be moved outside into a partially shady location. Fertilize the azalea with Miracid every watering and flush the soil once a month with water to leach out salts in the soil. Azaleas form flower buds in late summer and early fall. Keep the plant watered and fertilized all summer and bring it indoors gradually before frost threatens, says Wilson. Once indoors, prune off any new growth, being careful not to damage the flower buds. Placeit in a cool (55 F), sunny window and mist it twice a week, and it should bloom by midwinter.

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