During the first months of the year until spring arrives, azaleas offer a festival of colors that adorn balconies, terraces and gardens. It is an ornamental plant par excellence, which is why it is the favorite of landscapers to dress large green areas with the overwhelming beauty of its flowers.
The name of the azalea comes from “azaleos”, a Greek word that means dry and sterile etymology that perhaps refers to its woody stems and its botanical name is Rhododendron indicum. This ornamental plant was cultivated for the first time in Eastern countries (Japan and China) and it was not until the 18th century that it reached Europe (Italy), conquering the most expert gardeners thanks to the exuberance and beauty of its flowering.
Azalea can be easily grown both in pots and directly in the ground. It is also ideal for decorating internal spaces with beautiful flower arrangements.
Morphology and types of azaleas
It is a plant in the shape of a small bush, belonging to the Ericaceae family known for its abundant flowering. Throughout history, multiple hybridizations have been carried out by botanists, which has generated in this species a great capacity to adapt to different types of climates.
The azalea plant has foliage that offers a green coloration, which transforms into an attractive purple color when winter arrives. The size of its leaves is closely related to the particular azalea variety; some have small leaves and in others they can measure up to a meter. Likewise, its leaves always have an oval appearance.
Regarding its flowers, these grow in the axils of the leaves offering a bell shape with five petals and formed in abundant clusters; reason why its aspect is of numerous flowers. Hybridizations have made possible the appearance of specimens with the ability to produce flowers in greater abundance, covering practically the entire plant with their exuberance.
In turn, it is a plant that also blooms in a wide range of colors; For this reason, the azalea flower can be obtained in shades of pink, red, orange and it is also common to see white azalea.
When do azaleas bloom?
Its flowering period is at the end of winter, extending from January to March, sometimes including the spring season. For this reason, the best time to plant it should be spring or early fall.
As for the types of azaleas, there are currently more than 1,000 species between wild and hybrids and more than 10,000 varieties developed by botanists. However, in general, we have pink azalea, cristina japonica azalea, karen azalea, white azalea, bonsai azalea, mountain azalea and others.
Depending on the variety, this plant can be grown from shoot cuttings of 15 cm long woody stems or also from seeds. Regardless of the technique used, the azalea should be planted at a depth of 2 cm, in cool places and in semi-shade; but without denying lighting and always avoiding direct sunlight.
Likewise, for the plant to grow and develop healthy, it requires an acidic soil (pH 4.5 to 6.0), rich in humus, drained and with a lot of iron; since its roots grow superficial. For this reason, in the garden it must have a raised bed and if it is planted indoors. The best option is clay pots.
In addition, it should be considered that it is a species that does not need large amounts of fertilizer and its roots should not be completely covered with fertilizer or soil.
On the other hand, in order to provide adequate space for its growth, it is advisable to keep a distance of one and a half meters between each plant. We must not forget that the azalea is a species that grows slowly , so we must be patient to enjoy the beauty of its flowers.
The most important thing about your care
We must be attentive to the care of the azalea if we want to see it grow healthy. For this, its primary need is irrigation; which must be with filtered and frequent water during the summer (without flooding its roots). Its leaves and flowers should not get wet to avoid fungi; so its irrigation should be limited to the root.
It is also important to know that the azalea plant does not support dry, hot climates or dark places. For this reason, the plant should be kept in places where it receives sufficient natural light, freshness and partial shade; a good option would be to put it under a tree or in ventilated interiors and away from heat sources.
Some varieties need frequent pruning. There are two techniques for pruning azaleas: thinning pruning and renewal pruning. In the case of thinning pruning, this technique allows the removal of withered, dry and old flowers; likewise, it favors being able to remove dry branches and trim all those that block the passage of light to the plant.
For its part, the renewal pruning of the azalea is a process by means of which it is intended to eliminate a large part of the plant, this in order to promote its renewal, favoring the growth of strong and robust stems so that the plant remains healthy and beautiful.
In the same way, attention should be paid to the insects that attack them , since they could cause serious damage and even wither them; so it is advisable to check its leaves frequently for mites, aphids or red spiders and use suitable products for their elimination.
Although it is a plant that requires certain care, it is well worth having it at home to enjoy the beauty and color of its perennial flowers.