Gardens

How to Propagate Azaleas

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Azaleas are fairly easy to propagate using a number of methods. These include layers, cuttings, grafts, hybridizing and seed. By far, the easiest method is to use cuttings, which are the subject of this article. Follow these steps to propagate azaleas from cuttings.

There are evergreen and deciduous azalea and both are members of the rhododendron family. Deciduous drops its leaves in fall and they grow back in spring. Evergreen also drops its leaves, but because it grows two sets of leaves, it appears to be evergreen. Evergreen azalea is also more commercially grown because it is easier to root from cuttings.

Tools and Materials Required:

  • Garden shears
  • Garden gloves
  • Rooting mediium
  • Rooting hormone
  • Pencil end or ruler
  • Growing pot or tray
  • Water
  • Plastic sheet
  • Larger pots for transplanting
  • Planting mix

Step 1 - Use New Growth Only

According to the Azalea Society of America, any time from June on is the right time to take cuttings, but be sure to use new growth only. Of course, this is dependent on the weather. The wood to be cut must be somewhat pliable, but not brittle or bending (like a rubber band).

Step 2 - Cut in the Morning

The best time to take cuttings is in the morning, before the heat of the day adds stress to the plant. Make sure the plant is well watered before attempting to cut it. This will give both parent plant and cutting sufficient moisture to withstand the stress of the cutting itself.

Step 3 - Cut the Short Shoots

Examine the azalea plant. Cuttings should come from the short shoots from the ends of existing wood - not from the thick, strong ones at the plant's base. Cut the short shoots from 2 to 5 inches in length.

Step 4 - Trim Shoots

Pull off any blossoms, and remove all except the top cluster of leaves. If not immediately rooting the stems, moisten them. They can be kept in the refrigerator overnight.

Step 5 - Prepare Cutting Bottom

When ready to root the cutting, either wound the bottom by scraping with a fingernail or use a rooting hormone. Either a liquid like Wood's, or a powder such as Hormodin or Rootone, can be used, but follow instructions.

Step 6 - Place Cuttings in Rooting Medium

The most commonly used evergreen azalea rooting medium is a 50/50 mix of peat and perlite. Other mixtures that also work include peat, sand, vermiculite, coarse perlite and fine pine bark. Lay the rooting medium to a depth of 4 to 6 inches in a flat or 1-gallon pot (which can accommodate up to a dozen cuttings). This rooting medium should be prepared a couple of days prior to setting in the cuttings, and kept moist.

Use a pencil eraser end or a ruler to make the 2- to 3-inch impressions in the rooting mixture. Place the cuttings in the mixture every 2 to 4 inches.

Step 7 - Water and Other Requirements

Once all cuttings are in place, water well to get them established, but avoid wetting the leaves. Cover with a sheet of plastic cut to fit. Place them in a well-lit spot, but avoid over-watering them.

Step 8 - Germination and Transplanting

Cuttings from evergreen azalea should germinate in 4 to 8 weeks. Once they have rooted, open the flat/pot up to more exposure until they get acclimated. Then open up fully for a few days.

The last step is to transplant rooted cuttings to a larger flat or pots containing a mixture of peat moss, leaf mold and sand.

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Photo copyright Wikimedia Commons (http://commons.wikimedia.org)