Florist or Grocery Store Azaleas

Potted azaleas are often sold at florists' shops and grocery stores. Frequently, they are gifted to people as a blooming houseplant. This article discusses if these azaleas are viable long-term, and will they bloom again?

Like winter-time poinsettias, azaleas purchased from florists or grocery stores typically are grown as short-lived houseplants. They are forced to flower in greenhouses with a tightly controlled growing environment, and it's a shock to the plant's system when it experiences the much different temperature, humidity, and light conditions in your home. Once the blooms fade, these plants typically get thrown away.

Proper care can extend the life of your plant. When you first bring your florist's azalea home from the store, remove any decorative outer foil or other wrapping from around the pot as this can inhibit drainage.

Select a location with bright, indirect light, where the temperature is between 60 to 70°F. Avoid placing it in areas that have dramatic temperature fluctuations.

Potted azaleas bought from stores usually are grown in peat moss that provides good drainage and correct acidic growth conditions. However, peat can dry out quickly if you forget to water the pot. If the potting medium feels bone-dry and plant leaves have drooped, immerse the plant pot in a container of lukewarm water for 15 minutes and afterwards drain the excess water from the pot.

Watering is a common reason for potted azaleas to die. The soil medium should not be too soggy or too dry. Allow the top half inch of potting mix to dry between waterings. Ideally, one should use bottled water or rainwater to hydrate your plant, as municipal water often is too alkaline.

Florist azaleas are almost always Southern Indicas varieties, and generally they cannot tolerate low temperatures. If low temperature is not a concern in your area, then with proper care they can be maintained to bloom again.

After the blooms fade, repot your plant into a larger container with drainage holes using an acidic soil mixture with a pH of 4.5 to 6.0. Purchased potting soil specifically designated for rhododendrons and azaleas works well. Deadhead the spent flowers and prune out any broken, dead, or diseased branches.

In order for these plants to bloom again, they need a chilling period of about two months with temperatures between 40 to 50°F. Commercial growers achieve this by keeping the plants in a controlled environment. One can replicate this by placing your plant in the basement or other suitable location. Reduce watering during this period, but do not allow the soil to completely dry out. After two months of cooler temperatures, move your plant back to a location with 60 to 70°F temperatures.

During the spring/summer months, the plant can be grown outdoors in a protected area. Harden it off gradually over the course of a week to 10 days, by placing the plant outdoors for increasing amounts of time. Fertilize with a product for acid-loving plants during active growth.

Bring your florist's azalea back indoors before first frost as exposure to low temperatures, even for a short time, will kill the plant. Bring it indoors for increasing amounts of time over the course of a week.