Houseplants

Florist’s Azaleas Need Water and Cold

Larry Hodgson has published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings available to the public. This text was originally published in Le Soleil on December 5, 1987. Its content was modified from the original.


Question

How to make a gift azalea bloom again?

Anonymous from Baie-Comeau, Canada.

The florists azalea
Photo: DenesFeri, Wikimedia Commons

Answer

Nicknamed the florist’s azalea (Rhododendron simsii, syn R. indicum), it is in fact an evergreen shrub native to East Asia. It can reach 6 ft (1.8 m) high in its natural environment. It’s important to know that if we are offered azaleas in such large quantities at this time of year, it is not because it is a good houseplant, but rather because, being a plant that does not require much heat, it is cheap to produce during the winter. That said, it can still be made to bloom without having a cold greenhouse, but it will require special care.

Keep It Moist

First, always keep your florists azalea’s soil moist. It is a plant that “drinks” a lot, so it must be closely monitored. Put it in a cool place (no more than 18°C during the day) until spring. Bright light is useful in winter, so put it in front of a sunny window or give it artificial light. Make sure it is in a humid environment or install a humidifier. It is not necessary to fertilize until spring.

The azalea in its natural environment outside
The florist’s azalea (Rhododendron simsii, syn R. indicum) is able to reach 6 ft (1.8 m) high in its natural environment. Photo: Kai Yan, Joseph Wong, flickr.com.

Come Spring

When the days warm up, place it outside in a half-shaded area, always watching the watering. At the same time, you can repot it with an acidic and well-drained substrate. It is more than possible that the grower planted it in a pot that was too small to save space and since this type of azalea is rarely kept after its first bloom. Now that your azalea growing, it’s a good time to start fertilizing.  If the foliage appears to be yellowing, put a little vinegar in the water to acidify the soil. Bring the plant inside in the fall and put it in the coolest possible place, but away from frost. An azalea treated in this way should begin to bloom again during the winter.

Note that with all this care, the florist’s azalea is not a plant for the laidback gardener. But if you received it as a gift, it’s worth trying to make it bloom again!

More information on the florist’s azalea.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

1 comment on “Florist’s Azaleas Need Water and Cold

  1. Of all the azaleas that we grew on the farm, only one was a ‘florist’ azalea. All others were ‘landscape’ azaleas. Florist cultivars were developed for their particular application. Landscape cultivars, likewise, were developed for reliable survivability within landscape situations, although they are not quite as flashy as florist cultivars. Florist cultivars can of course adapt to landscape situations, but they generally stay lower, and their lavish bloom is potentially more susceptible to damage from the weather.

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