Azaleas grow throughout North America, and there are hundreds of varieties to fit any landscaping need. Some are cold hardy, some are not, some are evergreen and some are deciduous, but any type can be propagated by cuttings. You can also start azaleas from seed.
Azaleas from Cuttings
Prepare the planting medium. Use a mixture of half perlite and half peat. Fill the planting cells or trays with the planting medium.
Make cuttings from the source azalea bush while it is dormant. If you have damaged branches, you can rescue them by using them for cuttings. Include one whorl (cluster) of leaf buds and make each cutting between one and two inches long. Pinch off any flower buds, since they will steal energy from root production.
Make cuttings from evergreen azaleas by using the branch tips, about four or five inches long. Strip off all but the tip leaves.
Cuttings are the only way to reliably propagate azaleas that will be identical to the parent plant.
Dip the rooting tip of each cutting into water, and then into the rooting hormone. Insert the cutting into a hole you made in the planting medium, and firm the medium around the cutting. Use a clear cover if one came with your starting tray, or enclose the cuttings in clear plastic wrap or a bag.
Start the longer evergreen azalea cuttings in deeper pots.
Give your cuttings gentle bottom heat by using a waterproof plant heating mat, and place them where they will get plenty of bright, indirect light for about 16 hours per day. Supplement window light with a grow-light fixture if necessary. Do not allow them to dry out.
Allow at least four weeks for the little plants to break dormancy. Small leaves will appear, and roots will begin to grow. Evergreen azaleas take about the same length of time to develop roots, and they may or may not drop leaves and grow new ones. Keep these tiny plants growing under their plastic covers until spring, when you can place each one in its own larger pot. Protect the young potted plants in a cold frame over the first winter.
Azaleas from Seeds
Prepare sterile growing medium in starter cells or trays. Use acidic potting mix made from equal parts perlite and peat.
Plant the tiny azalea seeds in the potting mix. Barely cover the seeds. Seeds are not a reliable method of growing true-to-parent varieties, but some interesting azaleas will be produced.
Mist the seeds and enclose them in clear plastic. Keep the seeds warm with gentle bottom heat from a plant heating mat, and keep the potting medium moist, but never soggy. Seeds should germinate in four weeks.
Pot the young plants when they have begun to grow, and protect them in a cold frame during their first winter.
Things You Will Need
- Azalea source plant or azalea seeds
- Porous potting mix
- Plant starter cell-packs or starter trays
- Rooting hormone
- Sharp plant clippers
- Another method of rooting azaleas is called layering. To layer, simply pull a vigorous branch from an established azalea shrub down to the ground and anchor it with a two-prong ground-pin or by placing a rock on it. Mulch over the contact point, and by the end of the growing season there should be roots at the contact point. Cut the branch, and the new plant is ready to transplant.
- Fungus diseases are the main cause of failure when rooting azaleas. Fungus diseases are brought on by overwatering. Try to maintain evenly light moisture, especially when using bottom heat mats which can quickly dry out the potting mix.