How to grow azaleas in pots

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Azaleas belong to the same family as rhododendrons but tend to have softer, thinner leaves and fewer flower stamens. There are a variety of sizes, bloom times, petal shapes and colours available. Azaleas may be deciduous (drop their leaves in autumn/winter) or evergreen. With more than 10,000 different varieties from which to choose, you should be able to find an azalea plant that will suit your container garden perfectly.

Visit your local garden centre or nursery to get useful advice and a good selection of plants that grow well in your location.

Choose a container that you can move (if necessary) and one that will allow enough room around the root ball. Allow several centimetres on each side of the root ball to allow the plant space to grow. Also choose a container that has drainage holes.

Use good soil, such as a potting mix composed of 50 per cent potting soil and 50 per cent fine pine bark. Azaleas love well-drained, moist soil and will not thrive in soil that can become waterlogged.

Remove your azalea from its nursery container and use a knife to cut slits into any visible roots that are wrapped around the root ball. Make 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) deep slits every 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 inches) around the root ball, in a top to bottom motion. Fill your container with some of your potting mix, and place the root ball into the container, with the top of the plant resting near the top of the container. Fill in the area around the azalea with soil and top with mulch. Leave approximately 2.5 cm (1 inch) of space around the stems.

Water your azalea the day that you plant it, water it again the next day and then a minimum of once weekly for several weeks.

Place the azalea in an area with variable sun and shade. Azaleas grown exposed to full sun will tend to have shorter bloom cycles and shorter stems.

Fertilise your potted azalea every month through the autumn. Use a fertiliser which has a high phosphorous and low nitrogen content to enhance the growth of roots and buds. Don't fertilise during winter.

Monitor the roots. Every six months, carefully remove your azalea from its container to examine the roots. If the root ball is encircled by fine roots, you should place the azalea into a bigger container, one that is 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) wider. Before you place the azalea in the new pot, cut the roots that encircle the root ball cutting from top to bottom every few centimetres.

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