Intro: Azaleas 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.
Scientific Name: Rhododendron spp.
Plant Type: Flowering shrub
Light: Part shade
Water: 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.
Zone: Most azaleas do well in Zones 5 to 9, but there are evergreen varieties that can grow in cooler areas.
Temperature: 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.
Fertilizer: 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.
Propagation: Propagate the azalea plant by taking cuttings or seeds.
Misc. Info: 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.