Indoor Azalea, or Rhododendron - Secrets of Care
The most lush garden shrub rhododendron, even in a modest potted format, makes a lasting impression. Like flowering clouds, bushes of rhododendrons-azaleas seem almost unearthly spectacle. And, despite their difficult nature, these indoor plants do not lose popularity. Care must be taken for rhododendrons. They are demanding not only to irrigation, water quality or air humidity, but also to the conditions of detention. And the better they are selected, the more beautiful these delightful oriental beauties bloom.
Unlike garden pets, indoor rhododendrons are still more often called azaleas, an outdated synonymous name. They are allocated in a special group, emphasizing how compact potted rhododendrons differ from garden counterparts.
Indoor rhododendrons - hybrid dwarf varieties derived from Sims Rhododendron (Rhododendron simsii) and blunt rhododendron (Rhododendron obtusum) - the legendary Indian and Japanese azaleas.
Continuous flowering hides greenery behind dense inflorescences-shields. Low dwarf pillow bushes have a dense, dense, sprawling crown that extends upward. The height of indoor azaleas is limited to a maximum of 50 cm, although most varieties do not exceed 30 cm. Strongly branching shoots decorated with leathery, dark, oval, medium-sized leaves with a unique leathery surface are inimitable.
Rhododendrons are one of the most picturesque plants. Often they form a bonsai or give the bushes more expressive silhouettes, create boles and original figures. But sometimes tricks only interfere with enjoying the unique beauty of the plant, which has become the standard of style.
Meet indoor blooming rhododendrons at any time of the year. The classic flowering period is winter, with a drop in temperature in November to stimulate budding.
Pure, watercolor or acrylic, delicate or bright shades - white, pink, red and purple colors are presented in rhododendrons in elegant colors. The presence of terry and simple, large-colored and ordinary, two-color or plain variations makes the choice even more difficult. Searching for “your own” azalea is to your taste and to your interior, because such a color spot will have a significant impact on the atmosphere in the house.
Growing conditions for indoor rhododendrons
This legendary perennial plant deserves attention, respect and informed choice. And do not throw it away after a single flowering season as a “living bouquet". But rhododendrons require special conditions and cool temperatures. And if you can’t recreate them, room azalea will not be able to live in your house for a long time.
Lighting and placement
In the room format, rhododendrons are afraid of both a strong shadow and direct sun. They are exposed in places with soft, diffused lighting. This plant is suitable for decorating the interior of bright rooms, provided that there is not a strong distance from the window. It is better to place the bushes below the viewing level.
Azaleas are less sensitive to relocation than competitors, but experimenting at the budding and flowering stages is not worth it. Even turning can cause dropping buds and shortening flowering times.
Temperature and ventilation
Rhododendrons love coolness and do not tolerate high temperatures. And it’s not about wintering at all: even in summer, azaleas need protection from heat. Maximum temperatures should be limited to 18 degrees, trying to maintain an average temperature of about 15 degrees or slightly lower.
Plants will prefer in the fall (with classical flowering from the end of November) to stay at even lower temperatures - from 6 to 10 degrees for laying more buds. Raising the indicators to 16-18 degrees stimulates flowering, and a return of 12-15 degrees prolongs it. Higher temperatures not only shorten the flowering period by 6-8 times, but also require compensation by more thorough care.
At any time of the year, rhododendrons will not tolerate strong temperature fluctuations, responding by dropping buds. Sudden changes cannot be allowed, limiting the jumps to a maximum of 4-5 degrees.
In summer (until the end of August) indoor azaleas can be placed outdoors in partial shade or shade, in places protected from the wind (but not precipitation), exposed in the garden or on the balcony, or by digging pots in open soil. The rooms are required frequent accurate airing. Drafts are not allowed.
Home care for rhododendrons
Rhododendrons do not tolerate missed irrigation. But the most difficult part in growing them is maintaining the right humidity.
Watering and humidity
This shrub does not tolerate complete drying of the soil (if the soil has dried, they immediately soak in warm water). Between watering during the period of active growth, only the surface of the substrate is allowed to slightly dry, during the dormant period, the soil is dried several centimeters deeper. Rhododendrons are easier to water not in the classical way, but by immersing the container for soaking an earthen coma or by lower watering in a pan.
When watering, it is important to use soft, ideally rain, acidified or melt water, always draining its excess after 10-15 minutes. By lowering the water temperature, you can compensate for too high air temperatures, but within a reasonable framework, avoiding a strong difference (maximum - 5 degrees cooler). Sometimes for “rhododendrons” they lay out “cooling” snow in pallets or on the surface of the soil. But this should only be done systematically, and if appropriate recommendations are received upon purchase.
Humidity is a critical factor in growing indoor rhododendrons. They require indicators of 70% and can not tolerate the proximity of heating appliances (but at the same time grow well in rooms with air conditioning). Suitable and installation of humidifiers (for example, trays with wet moss), and frequent misty spraying. Drops of water on the buds or flowers should not accumulate.
Fertilizing and fertilizer composition
For indoor azaleas, fertilizers are applied only in liquid form during the period of active growth of greenery, in spring and summer - 1 time per week (or each watering with reduced doses). At the stage of budding - 1 time with phosphate fertilizers. During flowering - 1 time per month. Only special fertilizers for rhododendrons are suitable. You can alternate mineral and organic fertilizers.
Rhododendron pruning and shaping
Rhododendrons in rooms require regular formation. After flowering, all shoots are shortened by 5 cm, and sanitary cleaning is carried out - they remove damaged, weak, unproductive shoots. As soon as new shoots begin to grow, after the appearance of the third pair of leaves, pinch them, continuing to tweeze until the beginning of budding. After tying the buds, the side branches that begin to grow in flower buds are removed.
During flowering, fading flowers should be regularly removed, gently plucking them, otherwise the flowering will be very short.
Transplant, containers and substrate
Rhododendrons require special soil with a high peat content. The most reliable option is ready-made special substrates for rhododendrons. But you can try using heather soil or a mixture of peat and coniferous soil with coarse sand. When planting, sphagnum and loosening additives are added to the substrate. The soil reaction should be 4-4.5 pH.
Rhododendrons grow well on alternative soils, including inert substrates and hydroponics.
For indoor azaleas, only medium-sized and shallow containers suitable for their superficial rhizome are suitable. Bookmark high drainage required.
A transplant is carried out only when the roots of the pot are completely filled with roots, only for young bushes - annually. Due to sensitivity to contacts with the roots, the bushes need to be transshipped without destroying the earthen coma, without deepening the root neck. In years when transplantation is not needed, the topsoil must be replaced.
Diseases, pests and growing problems
Rhododendrons can suffer from whiteflies, aphids, spider mites, specific pests - the azalea moth. Not uncommon on rhododendrons and rust, rot, mosaics. The infected plant must be immediately isolated, proceeding to sanitary pruning and processing with insecticides or fungicides.
Rhododendrons respond to any problems with watering and heat by wrinkling and yellowing of the leaves. But the problems with flowering are most often caused by dry air and lack of lighting.
Propagation of room format rhododendrons
Indoor azaleas are propagated by cuttings, less often by bush separation or grafting. Summer semi-lignified cuttings from 6 cm long are rooting after removal of the lower leaves and treatment with stimulants under the hood, in acidic soil, at a temperature of about 25 degrees.