Azaleas are a popular spring shrub, often called "The Royalty of Flowers." They are hardy plants, requiring little help from gardeners once they are mature. Evergreen azaleas are also relatively easy to propagate by rooting.
Prepare for cuttings as soon as you see new growth on the evergreen azalea plant you wish to propagate. This usually occurs in June or July. The woody stems shouldn't snap with brittleness, nor should they bend like rubber.
Create a rooting medium of half peat and half perlite at least two days before taking cuttings. It should be between 2 and 6 inches deep in the rooting containers you prefer, either flats or small pots or cups. Water the rooting medium each day so it stays moist.
Take 2- to 5-inch cuttings, in the morning, using clean pruning shears. Do not take cuttings from shoots coming from the base of the azalea.
Remove all the leaves except the "terminal leaves" clustered around the top of the cutting, using pruning shears.
Cut the terminal leaves in half if they are large or long.
Wet the cuttings with cool water, shake them a few times and put them in a plastic Ziplock-style bag in the refrigerator. This is an optional step, if you can't work with the cuttings immediately upon taking them. Leave the cuttings in the refrigerator for no more than a day.
Remove the bark from the lower half inch of the cuttings, using a clean knife.
Stick the freshly cut ends in rooting hormone. Do not use liquid rooting hormone, because this may burn the cutting. Do not let the cutting sit in rooting hormone; simply dip the end in the hormone, then remove it.
Shake the cuttings to remove excess rooting hormone.
Insert cuttings into the rooting medium. If you are using flats, place cuttings every 2 to 4 inches apart.
Water the cuttings. Try not to get the leaves wet.
Cover the containers with plastic. This helps keep the cuttings moist. If using pots for cuttings, simply cover them with plastic food storage bags, unsealed.
Place the cuttings where they will not receive direct sunlight, but will get lots of indirect light.
Tug gently on the cuttings after about four weeks. This will indicate if the cutting has rooted. Some azalea cuttings take up to eight weeks to root.
Remove, bit by bit, the plastic covering. After two or three days, the plastic covering can completely come off.
Transplant the cutting into a larger pot or flat filled with peat moss, leaf mould and sand. Keep the cuttings in a cold frame or greenhouse for a year.
It is more difficult to root deciduous azaleas (those that lose their leaves in the winter). For best results, take cuttings while the new growth wood is green and soft--around May--and use an electric heat pad made for propagation. Once rooted, feed cuttings with a liquid fertiliser cut to half strength, and make sure they get three or four hours of bright light all summer, using 75 watt incandescent light bulbs.
Tips and warnings
- It is more difficult to root deciduous azaleas (those that lose their leaves in the winter). For best results, take cuttings while the new growth wood is green and soft--around May--and use an electric heat pad made for propagation. Once rooted, feed cuttings with a liquid fertiliser cut to half strength, and make sure they get three or four hours of bright light all summer, using 75 watt incandescent light bulbs.