12 Tips for Growing Healthy Potted Azaleas

My Garden Life
November 20, 2023
Table of Contents

Azaleas are mostly known as a beautiful landscape shrub, but potted azaleas, often called “florist azaleas” or simply “indoor azaleas”, make popular flowering houseplants. Potted azaleas are fairly easy to care for if you can meet their basic requirements.  They can be grown in indoors or in outdoor areas such as a porch, patio, or balcony, as long as they are provided with suitable light and temperature conditions. Follow these tips to learn how to grow and care for beautiful azaleas in your home!

1. Grow potted azaleas in indirect sunlight

Azaleas love bright locations – but exposing them to intense midday sunlight can scorch the leaves. Place your azalea pot in a location that receives morning sun and afternoon shade to keep it happy. Potted azaleas may enjoy taking a vacation outdoors for the summer and would do well on a porch or patio table where they receive either morning sun, or dappled shade through the day.

In either location, it’s important to note that potted azaleas prefer a temperature of between 50-70 degrees F (10-21 degrees C). In regions with intensely hot summers, a potted azalea may prefer living near a bright window indoors with air-conditioning than being exposed to hot temperatures outdoors. Even if your plant is in the shade, when the heat gets to around 80 degrees F (26 degrees C) or higher, you may start to notice your potted azalea plant having some problems such as leaf curl, lack of flower bud development, or pests or diseases that flourish in hot temperatures.

A white potted azalea plant growing near a window.

2. Use the right soil when repotting your azalea

Depending on how quickly it grows, your potted azalea may require repotting every couple of years Avoid using regular potting soil, as it may not provide the ideal conditions for azaleas. Instead, use a well-draining and slightly acidic soil mix that is specifically designed for azaleas and rhododendrons and that you will find in most garden centers. 

3. Pick the right pot for your azaleas

Select a pot that is wide and shallow, with good drainage holes. Azaleas have shallow root systems, so a wide pot allows for proper root development; drainage holes prevent the soil to become waterlogged. 

A good choice of a pot with a large saucer for growing a healthy potted azalea.

4. Water your indoor azalea with care

Keep your azalea’s soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. Avoid letting the soil dry out completely; water the azalea when the top inch of soil feels dry. Water thoroughly until the excess water drains from the bottom of the pot, but don’t water more often than needed. 

Watering potted azaleas-a woman watering an indoor potted azalea using a watering can.

If your azalea is in a nursery pot placed inside a decorative plastic sleeve or pot, without drainage holes, there is a good chance of water draining from the nursery pot and accumulating in the base of the plastic sleeve or exterior pot. Sitting in water can quickly lead to your azalea developing root rot, so you should water your azalea thoroughly and then pour off any excess water from the base.

Better yet, take your plant out of its decorative packaging or pot and just grow it in its nursery pot with a saucer underneath where the water can drain and more easily be poured off. Or you could repot your azalea from its grower pot, into a more decorative pot that does have a drainage hole, and place the new pot on a saucer.

5. Potted azaleas enjoy good air humidity

Azaleas appreciate high humidity levels in a room. You can increase humidity by placing the pot on a tray filled with water and pebbles, as long as you ensure the pot is not sitting directly in the water. You can also lightly mist the foliage daily but avoid getting water on flowers as it can cause spotting. Don’t locate your azalea near exterior doors that may expose your plant to cold drafts, and keep it away from heating vents as well. The warm dry air movement from vents can dry out an azalea’s foliage and may cause flower buds to dry and drop prematurely as well.

A bonsai azalea in a shallow blue pot sets on a tray of small gravel and water to elevate humidity around the plant.

6. Fertilizing potted azaleas

Once your azalea is well established in its container, it will need occasional fertilization. Feed your azalea with a balanced fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants. Apply the fertilizer according to the instructions on the package, and avoid over-fertilizing. Excess fertilizer can accumulate as salts in the soil that can damage an azalea’s roots.

It makes sense to only feed your plant when it’s actively growing, and you will likely want to reduce or stop fertilizing during the winter months when growth has ceased or slowed. Another time to withhold fertilizer is when the plant is in flower so that all energy goes into blooming. Resume feeding your azalea when the flowering period is over and the foliage is actively growing again.

 7. Pruning your potted azaleas

Azaleas need pruning for three reasons:

  • To maintain a nice shape
  • To promote bushier growth
  • To encourage a healthy plant with good flower production 

The time to prune your azalea is after it finishes flowering, which is usually at the end of spring. 

You may prune an azalea anytime to remove dead or damaged branches, but you want to avoid excessive pruning, as it could actually reduce the following year’s blooms because of the loss of plant mass and it’s need to recover from severe pruning. Having said that, florist azaleas are a popular choice for Bonsai and their many-branched stems are well-suited for shaping into miniature trees or a standard style topiary. 

Using potted azaleas to decorate a room-a white potted azalea placed on a wicker table in a kitchen.

8. When do potted azaleas flower

Usually when you purchase or receive a potted florist azalea as a gift, the plant has been grown in optimal greenhouse conditions that encourage the maximum amount of flower production. Because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to reproduce those ideal growing conditions, you should expect fewer flowers in the future. But your azalea should still produce enough blooms for you to continue to enjoy this beautiful plant year after year! The blooming season should occur in the spring.

9. Bring outdoor azaleas inside for the winter

If your potted azalea lives outside on a patio or porch, consider bringing it inside for the winter if you live in a region with harsh winters. Azaleas are generally not cold hardy, although some varieties will suffer less from winter conditions than others. Be sure to look at our list of Tips for Bringing Potted Plants Inside to prepare your azalea for a return to a life indoors.

Note that in winter, you will likely need to reduce watering compared to when the plant was actively growing. 

Potted azaleas can be grown outdoors in summer-a pink and white potted azalea grown outdoors on a door step.

10. Pests and diseases common to indoor azaleas

Watch out for common pests such as aphids, spider mites, and lace bugs. Regularly inspect your plants and take appropriate measures if you notice any infestations. Also, be vigilant for signs of fungal diseases, such as leaf spots or powdery mildew. Treat any issues promptly with appropriate fungicides or insecticides.

11. Know your azalea variety

Different azalea varieties may have specific care requirements, so it’s helpful to research and understand the specific needs of your particular azalea. Most potted azaleas sold as flowering houseplants are varieties of the Rhododendron simsii species, so it’s very likely this is what you have if you received your plant as a gift, or purchased it from a florist or supermarket. Rhododendron simsii is a species native to India, China and Taiwan and is especially suited for growing indoors. These azaleas are not frost-tolerant so unless you live in a frost-free region, there’s no point in planting it in the ground.  

A woman's hand removing a potted pink azalea from a rack at a garden center.

12. Keep potted azaleas away from your cats and dogs

Azaleas are beautiful, but they’re also a danger to cats and dogs. The foliage and flowers can cause an array of symptoms in your pet, from mild to severe, if ingested. If you are gifted a potted azalea plant, be sure to place it in a location where your pet can’t access it. If that’s not possible, this may be a case where you’ll want to err on the side of your pet’s safety and re-gift your azalea plant to someone who enjoys plants and doesn’t have pets.

A cat is near a potted azalea set in a decorative wicker basket.

With proper care, your potted azaleas should thrive and reward you with beautiful blooms year after year. It’s always fun to bring a garden feeling indoors with flowering potted plants. They brighten a space and give it a refreshing, natural feel. Get more ideas on how to create your own mini flower garden any time of year with seasonal Flowering Holiday Plants.

A pink potted azalea is placed on a table near a sofa brings a garden touch to a living room.

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