Azalea plants are flowering bushes that have impressive, showy flower blooms in the summer. Their large, colorful flowers last for weeks, and they look beautiful when cut and displayed in a vase inside. Popular in Southern-style gardens, the azalea plant is often grown as a large bush.
In balcony container gardens, however, these bushes will need to be pruned – they can actually be pruned to resemble small flowering trees. There are many species, varieties and hybrids of azaleas, and you are likely to find any color and flower shape to suit your balcony garden’s conditions.
Azalea – How to Grow in Container
Water regularly, but do not overwater, as azalea plants are prone to root rot. Do not let the potting soil dry out (unless the plant is in dormancy). Gradually reduce watering about a month before the first frost.
Most azaleas do well in Zones 5 to 9, but there are evergreen varieties that can grow in cooler areas.
Temperatures above 85 degrees will begin to damage azaleas. There are some more heat-tolerant varieties of the azalea plant. In freezing weather, some gardeners cover their azaleas with cloth to keep them warm, but because the roots of container plants are not insulated as well as those in the ground, consider bringing the containers indoors to overwinter them.
Azaleas do not often need fertilizer. Add a slow-release fertilizer to the potting soil when the azaleas are dormant in between late fall or early spring.
Pests and Diseases:
Generally these plants do not have problems with pests or diseases. Some problems, when they do occur, include leaf gall (cool, wet weather results in white growths and curled leaves), azalea lacebugs, spider mites, scale, etc.
Propagate the azalea plant by taking cuttings or seeds.
Flower blooms last longer in shadier spots in the balcony garden with dappled shade. This container plant does not do well in full sun (their flowers will fade), but those in full shade will grow tall and leggy. Morning sun with shade in the afternoon is best. Prune in early spring before new growth appears, and prune as the azalea blooms to encourage more flowers (these cut flowers look beautiful in a vase). Azaleas also begin to grow the next year’s flower buds after the summer blooms. Prune these flower buds, as if they will probably be killed by cold weather. There are some semi-evergreen varieties of azaleas.
When repotting an Azalea it is important to limit the shock to the plant. Failure to do so could cause the blooms and foliage to wilt and, in severe cases, the plant may die.
Fill the pot half full with potting soil. Azaleas prefer loose, well-drained soil, according to the Azalea Society of America. If using straight potting mixture it may be necessary mix in some organic mulch to create a looser soil mix. Up to 50 percent of the potting mixture can be mulch. Additionally, you may want to use a potting mix for acid-loving plants, or mix sphagnum peat moss into your standard potting soil, advises North Dakota State University Extension.
Remove the azalea from the current pot by tilting the pot upside down and gently shaking the plant out of the pot. Do not pull the azalea from the pot as this could damage the roots. It is okay if dirt falls away from the roots but don’t shake the dirt off as a large clump of falling dirt could damage the roots.
Place the azalea roots on top of the potting dirt and mulch mixture in the new pot.
Steady the plant with one hand and scoop dirt in around the plant with the other. Don’t pack the dirt around the plant; simply fill in the gaps as azaleas do best with loose soil.
Fill the pot the rest of the way to the rim with mulch. Leave an inch of space around the stem of the azalea without any mulch. Water the repotted azalea slowly and evenly, and water every day for a week in the same manner, advises the Azalea Society of America. The water helps settle the soil and provides the disturbed roots with easy access to water until they have had a chance to spread into the new soil.