Azaleas are a member of the genus Rhododendron, and they can be either deciduous (dropping their leaves), or evergreen. A braided azalea tree has had its stems or branches trained and pruned to form a braided trunk--it has the appearance of a topiary. This lovely plant can be used indoors or, if cold-hardy, outdoors in the garden, or potted and placed in the entryway to your home.
Because of hybridization there are more than 10,000 varieties of azaleas. There is a vast range of azaleas to choose from (different sizes and flower colors). Azaleas that are native to North America are deciduous, while azaleas that are native to Japan are generally evergreen. Flower sizes range from a half inch to 2 to 3 inches, and flower types can be single (five to six petals) or double (10 to 12 petals).
Azaleas that are typically grown for the floral trade are evergreen. These gift azaleas are in bloom throughout the year. Braided azalea trees can be found potted, and for sale by florists as they make a beautiful gift, and are often used as part of the floral design at church weddings, placed alongside an altar or alongside pews.
Potted Azalea Care
Potted azaleas require moist soil. Water them when the soil feels dry, draining off any excess that accumulates in the saucer after watering. The plant should also be placed in an area of your home that has diffused sunlight--do not put it in direct sun. Potted azaleas should be protected from drafts and extremes in temperature.
Repotting the Azalea
As your potted azalea grows,you will need to repot it. It is time to repot it when the roots begin circling the root ball. You will have to check the roots to determine whether it needs to be repotted every six months. If the roots are encircling the root ball, take a garden knife and cut the encircling roots from the top of the root ball to the bottom of the root ball (every 3 to 4 inches). Then, repot the azalea in a pot that is 2 to 4 inches wider than the original container.
To continue the braided trunk of the tree, you are going to have to prune the bottom of the topiary branches of any growth as the plant grows. As you prune the branches, gently continue the braid that has been formed. Note: If you prune before the plant blossoms, you will be removing some blooms.