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Azalea propogation & care

Azalea is a difficult plant to explain. A member of the Rhododendron family, this diverse group of plants could make up an entire website of their own. There are over 1,000 varieties of azaleas being grown in North America.

For the purpose of simplicity, I will limit my writing to two simple categories. Evergreen azaleas, and deciduous azaleas, and basic propagation of each.

"Herbert Azalea", an evergreen azalea hardy enough to survive as far north as zone 4. Of the evergreen azaleas that are only a few varieties that actually do well in the north. Some of the ones that I've used with success in zone 5 are Rosebud (pink), White Rosebud, Stewartstonia (red), Cascade (white), Hershey Red, Hino Crimson (red) and Delaware Valley White.

I get a lot of argument when I make statements like this because a lot of other varieties are sold in the north. However, I've backed that statement up with my grocery money, and during my many years landscaping homes and businesses, I lost more money on azaleas that were not hardy enough to tolerate our winters than any other plant I've ever used. Therefore I stand by statements.

The most common method of propagation for evergreen azaleas is to take cuttings during the winter, and stick them in a mixture peat and Perlite, or peat and sand, over bottom heat. They should root in about 6 weeks. If you use peat, mix it at a ration of 4 Perlite to one peat, but make sure you don't let the medium get too dry if you use bottom heat.

They can also be rooted in mid to late summer under intermittent mist.

A deciduous azalea is an azalea that loses it's leaves during the winter. The opposite of an evergreen.

Most of the deciduous azaleas have brilliant orange or yellow blooms that appear in very early spring. Also known as Exbury Mollis Azalea.

These beautiful plants can be grown from seed. After the plant blooms, it immediately goes into seed production. It takes all summer for the seeds to mature, then in the fall the seed pods open, and the tiny seeds are released into the air.

You can collect the seeds by watching the seed pods very closely, and as soon as they begin to turn brown pick them and place them in a paper bag, place the bag in a cool dry place until the pods open.

Once the pods are fully open you can spread the seeds and pods on a flat filled with good, well drained potting or growing soil. Pick the pod husks out and throw them away if you like, or you can leave them there. Water thoroughly, and then let the medium become almost dry before you water again. Keep the flat in an area where the air temperature is around 70 degrees F.

Once the seedlings begin to germinate they will need sunlight, and they can also be transplanted into 2-1/4" pots. A friend of mine used to transplant his when they were tiny, he'd use an old fashioned fountain pen to pick them out of the flat and move them to the small pots. The little hook on the fountain pen worked great to snag the roots.

If you have questions for Mike McGroarty visit his website, http://www.freeplants.com and post them on the message board where you can learn lots of gardening tips and communicate with other gardeners. While at his website you can learn how to start your own profitable backyard nursery. If you would like a copy of Mike’s booklet, “The Secret of Growing Landscape Plants from Scratch”, send $4.00 to: Garden Secrets, P.O. Box 338, Perry, Ohio 44081