Although an azalea blooms for only a short time, a healthy azalea can bloom so profusely that it can produce a solid mass of colorful flowers. Azaleas are forgiving, easily grown shrubs that do well in partial shade, but they don't like wet feet, so plant them in well-drained soil. Take stem cuttings in early summer, and they'll be ready to plant outside the following spring.
Fill a planting flat with a mixture of half perlite and half good-quality potting soil. Set the flat aside until you're ready to plant the cuttings.
Water the azalea the day before you take the cuttings. This will ensure that the azalea is well-hydrated and the cutting will have a better chance of rooting. Take the cutting early in the morning before the moisture has time to evaporate.
Test to be sure that the azalea is at the proper stage for taking a stem cutting. Cuttings should come from the short stems that come from branches, not from the main shoots that emerge from the plant's base. If the stems are ready, they will bend and then break with a snap. If the stems don't break, they're too immature. If they are so thick that they won't bend, they're too old.
Cut stems in 3- to 6-inch lengths using sterilized pruning shears. Pull the leaves off the lower third or lower half of the stem, and trim the bottom of each cutting at an angle. Scrape off the outermost bark on the bottom half inch of the stem with a fingernail.
Keep the cuttings moist until you're ready to plant them. Put them in a cooler or sealable bag with a few damp paper towels.
Moisten the potting soil in the flat with a spray bottle until it's evenly damp clear through, but not dripping. Dip the ends of the cuttings in rooting hormone and plant them 3 to 4 inches apart in the flat.
Cover the flat with plastic. A few sticks poked into the soil will keep the plastic up and off the leaves. Put the flat where it will get bright light, but don't put in direct light, or in a window, which can scorch the cuttings. A warm room with even temperatures of around 75 degrees is best. Keep the humidity at a high level. The soil should be misted whenever it appears to be drying out.
Check in about six weeks to see if the azalea cuttings have rooted by sliding your fingers carefully under one of the cuttings. If they haven't yet rooted, leave them under the plastic and check them every two weeks.
Move the azalea cuttings to individual 4-inch pots when the roots are at least an inch long. At this time, they should no longer be covered with plastic. Move them into brighter light for a few hours each day, but don't allow them to become too hot.
Feed the cuttings a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer mixed at half strength once each month, and continue to keep the soil damp. Plant the new azaleas outside when the weather warms in spring.